Where Are the Rivals to Facebook and Twitter?

With all the attention being lavished on how Facebook and Twitter have become mainstream tools, one thing that doesn’t get much attention is the lack of competition.

Facebook has a few rivals, the biggest being the increasingly irrelevant MySpace. Meanwhile, Twitter has the micro-blogging market to itself after vanquishing Pownce, which was a much better service before it disappeared into the belly of TypePad.

In essence, there is no competition. And even more strange, there aren’t many start-ups willing to take on the two social media giants. Compare this situation to the search engine market where the presence of Goliath – aka Google – has done little to deter a never-ending number of start-ups from throwing their hats and millions of dollars of venture capital into the ring.

Even YouTube has healthy competition, although the distance between it and second-place player, Vimeo, is huge.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have the playground to themselves. Now, I can understand how start-ups may be reluctant to take on Facebook given its size but Twitter strikes me as ripe for the picking.

First, Twitter is far from perfect. If it wasn’t for the thousands of third-party players offering valuable, cool and entertaining services, Twitter would be like a ice cream store that only offered chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. And although Twitter has pretty solid infrastructure now (knock on wood!), its feature set is, at best, modest.

Given this situation, you figure that someone would have the chutzpah to come up with a better micro-blogging service that provide consumers with an option to consider. The service would have to be solid and come with a few interesting features but it wouldn’t take much to tempt many people looking for next new shiny toy.

Maybe Facebook and Twitter are simply too large for anyone to take on. Maybe the communities and connections that people have on Facebook and Twitter are too entrenched for people to take a chance on a new player.

But it does seem strange that there’s pretty much a competitive void at a time when most markets are teeming with start-ups willing to take a shot at taking down Goliath.