NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- TheStreet contributor Eric Jackson thinks there's a war brewing between Twitter (Proposed Ticker Symbol: TWIT) and Facebook (FB).Jackson uses photo sharing to illustrate the fight. By happenstance, I deployed Facebook-owned Instagram to Tweet a photo shortly after reading Jackson's article. As part of the Tweet I used the @ icon to mention TheStreet. I hit share and checked my Twitter feed. My picture, along with everything I typed into the iPhone Instagram app was there, except the '@' in front of TheStreet. It disappeared. I tested it several times. Same thing happened repeatedly. Instagram turned @TheStreet into 'thestreet.' It hyperlinked URLs I included, but rendered Twitter mentions unclickable. I'm not sure if Instagram has been doing this all along. If not, and it's a Facebook move, it's not earth shattering, but it does speak to the competitive nature that exists between Facebook and Twitter. As Jackson predicts, the photo-sharing wars will come down to a battle between Apple ( AAPL), if it makes a meaningful move into the space; Yahoo ( YHOO) via a rejuvenated Flickr; Facebook; and, once it rolls out its photo sharing platform, Twitter. Multiple companies can coexist in the space if they find creative ways to carve out niches. While it's a great story and worthy fight, when you drill it down to Facebook and Twitter, few places exist where the two companies should even bother competing. In fact, it's almost pointless for them to beat one another over the head. If there was ever a case of clean coexistence in the Internet/tech/new media space, this is it. Facebook and Twitter should work to maintain their distinctions. You use Facebook to connect and reconnect with family and friends. You put pictures of your kids on Facebook. It just feels like the more appropriate environment for that sort of thing. Twitter isn't about friends and family. Or keeping grandparents updated on Junior's latest growth spurt or developmental milestone. You follow people who can do something for you intellectually at Twitter.
Twitter is the modern day newspaper. Facebook is a social gaming platform (not that there's anything wrong with that). Pretty soon on Facebook, you'll be buying stuff, sending gifts and running classified ads. When a president wins reelection, there's an earthquake or storm or a big sporting event, you take to Twitter. I could keep going, but you see the point. For most people, Facebook and Twitter serve different purposes. I don't buy the popular notion that people are "leaving" Facebook for Twitter. In fact, I have little faith in any anecdote or back-of-the-envelope research that purports to measure the level and intensity of user engagement with the world's two biggest social networks. They're both huge. That's good enough for me. While Facebook and Twitter share audience, it's quite possible -- even probable -- that different demographics favor one over the other. That's the nature of the game. Compare it to television. Comcast ( CMCSA) owns a whole slew of networks. Some run similar programming. In fact, last night both CNBC and MSNBC (as well as NBC) did full blown election coverage. As far as Comcast is concerned, their networks, even the somewhat closely related ones, complement each another. It's the same case in radio. Large companies own, say, a rock station and an alternative station or a news/talk station and an all-news station in the same market. Like Comcast does with its networks, these radio companies sell these stations to advertisers as packages. This station delivers this demo. The other owns that one. And they crossover somewhere in the middle. Or whatever the case may be. This leads to the logical conclusion for Facebook and Twitter. The photo-sharing thing makes for a cute fight, but why be enemies? There have never been two companies who are stronger together than they are apart. Facebook and Twitter should merge. Imagine being a local sales person or a regional or national rep walking into a client's office packaging Facebook and Twitter for a multi-platform buy. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.
I've referenced eMarketer's projections for mobile ad revenue in more than one article. For 2012, the firm estimates Twitter will generate $130 million in mobile ad revenue compared to Facebook's $73 million for a total of $203 million. By 2014, eMarketer estimates the two companies will combine for over $1 billion on mobile with Facebook overtaking Twitter by almost $200 million. It's a synergistic dream come true. And it should happen . . . yesterday. Government regulators wouldn't know what to do with it because, as Jerry Seinfeld once said to George Costanza, There's no precedent baby! At the time of publication, Rocco Pendola was long FB. Follow @rocco_thestreet