Facebook on Thursday announced that members can now link to other members' profiles in their status messages by using the '@' symbol. The move is clearly inspired by the popularity of Twitter's '@replies'.
This new feature means that you can link to the profiles of your friends and other pages on Facebook, and that your friends will be informed when they've been tagged. It's currently rolling out to members' profiles.
Engineer Tom Occhino explained it in a post on the Facebook blog: "Now, when you're writing a status update and want to add a friend's name to something you are posting, just include the '@' symbol beforehand. As you type the name of what you would like to reference, a drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and other connections, including groups, events, applications and [fan] pages."
It's yet another indication that Facebook is gradually but aggressively encroaching on Twitter's territory in its attempt to own real-time conversation on the Web. Twitter is nowhere near the size of Facebook, nor is it anywhere near as feature-rich, but it's enough of a disruption in the space to make Facebook keep trying to get the upper hand.
As you may recall, the history of this rivalry has included Facebook's failed attempt to buy Twitter, the 'real-time stream' upgrades to the social network's home page, and its acquisition of FriendFeed, a streaming feed aggregator.