Is Twitter (Finally!) Rising from a Deep Slumber?

Post by 
Editor@InOld.News
Published 
March 23, 2021
T

witter, as we know it, hasn't changed much in the last 15 years. This has helped it keep a healthy mix of old timers and newbies stick around. But there have been a lot of changes under the hood. You could say these changes, often subtle as compared to its social counterparts — like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat — were mainly geared to keep the platform true to its microblogging roots. Which means Twitter stayed accessible, quick and brief (limited by character count) and the familiar user interface assured the platform its indispensable spot on the internet that everyone including journalists, rushes to for opinions, trends, breaking news, and global updates.

Some would consider the biggest overhauling by Twitter in recent memory to be the doubling of the character limit from 140 to 280 in November 2018. Everyone suddenly had a lot more to say. While to some it cost a bit of brevity, it was a welcomed change to others.

But when it comes to minor tweaks, Twitter has been so active that it can take a whole paragraph like this one just to mention the memorable ones. Starting with the logo change from the letter 't' to the flying bird in 2012. The addition of Twitter Music for iPhones in 2013. Two years later they introduced 'While you were away' — a digest of things you missed while you were not using Twitter, followed by a quality filter to filter out troll content was added. Then there was the debut of Twitter Moments, the star button for liking a tweet changed to the current heart symbol, Twitter acquired Periscope to add live streaming and more. In 2017, Moments changed to Explore which included Moments, trends, live video streams, and search. In 2019 they launched Twitter Topics which allowed people to follow topics of their interest rather than just accounts. And their latest significant addition, Twitter Fleets—which is their take on stories (content that vanishes in 24 hours)— came to the platform in November 2020.

So while the platform has essentially been the same, a lot has slowly and meticulously been added to enhance the service without taking away from its microblogging origins. But a lot is about to change with the venturing into newsletters and audio streaming. Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's head of consumer product has been dropping bits and pieces of info to journalists like Nilay Patel and Alex Kantrowitz about what you can expect in the near future:

Spaces

As the co-founder of Periscope.tv, Kayvon Beykpour is quite familiar with the potential of livestreaming. Which is roughly what Spaces is supposed to be, but for audio. It's basically a competitor to Clubhouse (here's a funny thread on it). If you haven't tried out Clubhouse, here's all you need to know: People create rooms which their followers can join to listen into (it's audio only).The creator of the room can also pass the ability to speak to these listeners. The catch is, if you join in the middle or try to join after the room has ended, too bad, you were too late. So, Clubhouse is the app version of the teacher that won't give you attendance when you're late to class. But Kavyon in his interview mentioned that Twitter's version of Clubhouse, Spaces, may soon start allowing people to record their Spaces to turn them into podcasts, so people don't miss out on important conversations.

Twitter Revue

Revue is a newsletter tool that was recently acquired by Twitter. This is being looked at as Twitter's way of accommodating longform writing (like Substack did last year). While it is at the top of the microblogging game, users don't think Twitter when it comes to writings beyond 280 characters. Putting down a thread is a way around it, but not exactly a convenient one. Revue promises to fill that gap. Plus it will be a revenue-generating model that will help creators to use the platform to distribute their longform content as efficiently as tweets.

Super Follows

Twitter's way of letting accounts put up paywall. Kavyon mentioned this could be "subscriber-only Spaces. It could be subscriber-only newsletters. It could be subscriber-only Fleets. Like, think of it as stitching together all of the current and new and upcoming forms of content that someone can create on the platform, and really having this new subscriber layer and a new community, essentially, they can create that content for." Will this be the answers to Twitter's long struggle to offer monetisation for its content? Only time will tell. Last time Twitter tried to monetise was when it bought Vine (R.I.P.), and we all know how that worked out.

The Birdwatch

Though already launched (only in English) in January 2021, Twitter Birdwatch is still in its nascent stages. This is the platform's effort to let users mark out tweets they feel have misleading information, and add more details about the concern. We saw a part of it at play during the recent elections in the United States. Twitter believes that a community-driven approach can help make the world feel safer by being better informed.

Tweetdeck Overhaul

Twitter's tweet management platform that lets you arrange feeds and lists is in for a major overhaul too, the details of which will be rolled out later this year. Initially a third-party client, TweetDeck was acquired by Twitter in 2011. The platform has largely looked the same since the beginning. It's definitely in for a long-due makeover, and may have some new (much desired) features like "undo send" for paying customers.

It seems like Twitter is finally catching up on its bucket list of ambitions. Or is this burst of innovation the new norm for the tech giant? We'll just have to wait and watch.

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