A couple of days back I was reading the news about Subway lapping past McDonald in terms of number of stores. So, its official now - a simple sandwich store has more stores globally than the mighty McDonald. It does seem hard to believe, that something as simple as Subway is now the leading fast food chain in the world.
(Its a different matter that I still do not see them succeeding in India - compared to other economies where McD or Subway are cheap food options, in India they are not so cheap. With one getting a meaty 'Grilled Sandwich' or Vada-Pav in every corner of Mumbai (and similar stuff in other cities), am not sure of the appeal of these outlets. Apart from the hygiene and cool quotient, they don't offer any substantial improvements).
It got me thinking about how Twitter and Facebook might shape up in coming years. Or for that matter the other Social Networking sites which might come up. Facebook is very much like the McDonald in this comparison, and Twitter is very much like Subway (the comparison has to be back dated by a few years, when McD was much larger). Facebook has the universal appeal, but has much more of media attention (and hence scrutiny as well). And perhaps the most serious concern is the target segment - its mostly used by school and college going kids to share some random snaps or indulge into harmless and useless banter. But as they grow up, they would use it less and less - its addictive, and they know it. Much like the fast food, they like it - at the same time knowing that its not good for health, and hence would very much like to limit it. And may be in five years time, some of the most heavy users of Facebook would out grow it.
Twitter on the other hand has endorsements from a whole lot of celebrities (and that too for free, now try to beat that!!!). Almost everyone whom people would like to 'follow' are on Twitter, and as long as there are celebrities in the world, a 'twitter like' service may have its appeal. People from all age are using it (very much like Subway), and they don't intend to leave the habit one day. So, most of the users here may be sticky, and continue to use it years later. A few things would necessarily change, but the essence may remain. And it has lesser privacy concerns as well - and one-way communication ensures you are not obliged to respond immediately.
Well, these are just how I feel they will evolve over time. However, as with most internet and tech companies, its very very difficult to predict the changes - until they happen. However, given the current valuations (with FB almost valued at 10 times the valuation of Twitter), I would put my money on Twitter over the long term. Even though I admire FB as a company, and am a big fan of its interface and design.