Following Twitter's announcement of a new feature called Cashtags, which allow users to follow stocks, Howard Lindzon, CEO of StockTwits called the move a "hijacking" of his similar service on the company blog. "I am disappointed of course that Twitter is hijacking our idea and time (will only confuse the masses)," he writes, noting that Twitter's new innovation looks like third-party ticker symbol site. Yet, Lindzon is confident that Twitter's new feature won't destroy his service's relevance. "Stocktwits moved beyond that basic functionality 4 years ago. In a dirty way, it’s the ultimate compliment so we will take it as such for the moment and keep rolling out functionality that makes us the best real-time communication platform for people that love stocks and markets," he continues. He even suggests people sign up for the service to see the difference for themselves. So we did. Here's how the two services shake out.
Twitter: Familiar. Twitter's Cashtags looks like a hashtag stream. But, instead of the standard # sign next to a term, the organizing symbol is the $ sign followed by a company's stock symbol. In this case, we chose to look at Apple: $APPL. The interface is easy and simple, because it is exactly how a hashtag search works.
StockTwits: Useful. Stocktwits doesn't just give the related stream, it provides the stock's current trading information, as well as a visual representation of the stock's price over time via the graph on the right.
Twitter: Doesn't update often enough. This has all the pros and cons of a regular Twitter search, allowing users to view its designated "top" tweets or "all," which surfaces tweets in chronological order. If you're using Twitter's browser interface, the stream doesn't automatically update, letting tweets pile up above the top tweet, as you can see to the right. Twitter apps like Tweetdeck and its own Twitter for Mac don't have this problem.
StockTwits: User-friendly. Stock twits has the "all" versus "top" distinction, but it also gives the option of sorting for charts and videos, with charts being particularly useful for those looking up a stock. And instead of letting tweets pile up, like Twitter, StockTwits has automatic updates as the default option. If users prefer to keep a tweet at the top, they can click that pause button, as you can see to the right. StockTwits also works with Tweetdeck, by the way.
StockTwits: For business minded humans. StockTwits looks like it focuses more on finance experts.
Best Thing About It
Twitter: Twitter. Having a native service gives more people access to the idea. It's just one less place to bookmark and incorporate into TweetDeck, or whatever third party Twitter app you use.
StockTwits: Expertise. The company has been doing this for over four years, it has evolved to understand what its community wants. It has more features that people who want to follow these things appreciate. "Stocktwits provides context, curation and community," writes Lindzon.
It's up to users to decide which service works best for their needs. As for the stealing point, unfortunately for Lindzon that's the danger Internet start-ups face today. If Twitter sees another service gaining popularity, it makes sense for the company to either buy up that technology or build its own. We have seen the same thing happen at Facebook, which just announced a "save for later" feature that sounds like Instapaper. Or, how about the Camera app it built to mirror Instagram, which it also owns. As these companies look to attract bigger audiences and keep who they have on their site longer, instead of creating something new, it's just easier to take -- especially when nobody is stopping them.