Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has been using the microblogging service he’s been trying to buy – Twitter — since last May. But he’s kept his account on the site (@zuck) private and basically unused. Then he apparently created another one last month called @finkd, that allows you to follow him publicly. But he kept it quiet until the account was discovered — to his surprise — through a Twitter search result.
(That is, assuming this isn’t an extremely elaborate hoax. Update: Zuckerberg and the company have confirmed the account is real via Twitter.)
Which is funny, because Twitter’s real-time, open search capability is one of the features that Facebook seems intent on redesigning its site around. Twitter search could be a key way for the microblogging service to make money, because it helps you find current information that you care about based on what others are saying. As with Google, some fraction of such services involve a user’s intent to buy something, which is where advertisers want to be.
On Wednesday, Facebook announced it will be redesigning its users homepage and advertiser fan pages to allow for more real-time communication and status updates. But it’s still not clear how Facebook could reorient its service to allow people to search across all Facebook status updates on the site. Unlike Facebook, which prides itself on private, real-world connections, Twitter emphasizes open, public sharing of information — and that’s what makes its search valuable.
Plaxo’s John McCrea stumbled upon Zuckerberg’s account when he was searching for a past Twitter conversation with another Facebook employee — who also happens to have had a conversation with @finkd. After receiving a public tweet from John McCrea, Zuckerberg replied: “@johnmccrea hey, how’d you find this account? I know it’s not private but I’m just curious.”
So far, Zuckerberg has been dropping clues about Facebook’s intentions to make the data about its 175 million-plus users more easily accessible to other web services. Open standards advocate David Recordon tweeted an article he wrote earlier this week in which he wrote, “maybe I’m crazy about where Facebook is going” but “[m]y prediction is that by the end of the year Facebook will become the most open social network on the social web [his bolding].” Zuckerberg saw the tweet and responded: “@daveman692 You’re not crazy :)”
Right now, a range of current and former Facebook executives and associated tech types are some of the 44 people already following him (I just made myself number 45). Perhaps Zuckerberg will go cold as more people follow him? Or perhaps he’ll enjoy public sharing. After all, as Twitter chief executive Evan Williams told Charlie Rose a week ago about the power of the service:
People are learning that living a bit more publicly, a bit more transparently can have really powerful positive effects. You meet people, you are provided with new opportunities. You have the ability to express yourself. It can be narcissistic. It can be completely ego-driven. It can also be an authentic, open way to live your life that people enjoy and makes your life richer.
Perhaps Zuckerberg will be inspired to make Evan Williams’ life richer as well.
You can follow me on Twitter here as well as fellow VentureBeatniks MG Siegler, Dean Takahashi, Anthony Ha, Chris Morrison, Tam Vo, Camille Ricketts, Dan Kaplan and Matt Marshall. We have a VentureBeat account (for our posts) as well. You can friend me on Facebook — if we already know each other in real life.