Facebook goes after Twitter with its own Trending Topics

Facebook wants a bite of Twitter's success with real-time events

Facebook is taking a page from Twitter again.

Nearly two months after Facebook started rolling out Twitter-like hashtags, the social network is testing Trending Topics, which tracks what topics users are talking about most on the site.

"Today we started running a small test that displays topics trending on Facebook, a Facebook spokesman told Computerworld in an email. "It is currently only available to a small percentage of U.S. users who use Facebook's mobile website and it is still in very early stages of development. We will share more details down the line if we decide to roll it out more widely."

This one move could give Facebook a boost in an area where Twitter dominates -- real-time discussions about major events that can range from natural disasters to political campaigns to TV shows.

When something big is going on, Twitter generally lights up with comments, vents or searches for information.

"Facebook taking Twitter's lead isn't the sign of a leader, but the sign of a pragmatist," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "I think trending topics can help improve the immediacy of Facebook. When it comes to political events, sports, TV shows, etc., Twitter dominates."

He added that for some users, Facebook can be slow and cumbersome when they're trying to find posts and images about specific topics.

"Trending topics help accelerate the pace a bit, by injecting real-time activities into Facebook," Moorhead said "I think this is the end of Twitter's dominance of real-time events. Facebook won't take it all away from Twitter, but it certainly does provide competition."

The test of Trending Topics comes on the heels of Facebook's start to make hashtags -- words or phrases with the # sign in front that enable users to pull up tweets or posts about a particular subject, just like they are on Twitter. By clicking on a Facebook hashtag, users can see what other users and organizations are saying about the same topic.

With hashtags, users also can search for a specific point of interest or discussion, such as #TheVoice or #congress. They also should be able to compose posts directly on hashtag feeds and click on hashtags that originated on other sites, such as Instagram.

This article, Facebook goes after Twitter with its own Trending Topics, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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