Anticipating Changes To My Twitter Experience

As someone who views the web through Twitter, I think about how my experience will change because I know Twitter is under pressure to lock-in its experience from many clients and services, and especially because I’m tied to TweetBot as a client. There’s a small set of tech folks who mainly view Twitter through TweetBot, either for iOS or Mac or other platforms. While there are other clients, as well as Twitter’s own apps, my opinion is TweetBot’s features and functionality trump all, such as the ability to mute people you follow for a specific period of time, the native ability to save the text of a link shared in your stream, to quickly view lists, and so forth. But, over time, Twitter will have to make changes, and while I’m not sure what will happen, I’m bracing myself for some smaller power features to change, perhaps as soon as 2013. The features I’m curious about are as follows:

  • Comments: For articles circulated around Twitter, it’s not the best place for conversations to happen around those articles, and the original comments area suffers because it’s too hard to input comments via phones or tablets because you have to type them in, you have to log in to a new system, and those systems aren’t optimized for mobile platforms. My expectation is Twitter will better nest the conversations around links (as TweetBot does now), and this may change how people comment on Twitter as they know their tweets will not only be public, not only saved, but also attached to the original source material.
  • Muting: I just don’t see how Twitter moves forward without the ability to “mute” people you follow or timely topics. This can be a friend or colleague who is live tweeting a sports event or someone you may want to “hide” for a month, but not unfollow. This may be against the spirit of Twitter, but people can still follow/monitor others in private behind private lists. If and when Twitter locks in TweetBot, it will be interesting to see if this feature makes it over.
  • Discover and Search: Twitter’s “Discover” tab will need to be more personalized, sort of like Prismatic does. Right now, my opinion is that Prismatic delivers betters results here based on a host of social and interest signals. Twitter will need to improve this button and do the hard work of training users to visit this feed for a snapshot of the links they should see. Search, however, is a different story. Right now, for many real-time searches, Twitter satisfies, but for events that are new or developing, Prismatic’s search and subscribe feature brings a far less noisy, better-tuned experience and, in my opinion, beats Google News. From a revenue standpoint, both of these functions matter greatly: For Discovery, users could pay attention and Twitter could drive links so long as the stream is personalized to the individual, and for Search, the intent would be a way to put a Google Ad Word model on top of the experience.
  • Favoriting: This is the big, subtle one. When Twitter unveiled “favoriting” as their own version of liking, it was a hit and going strong. People “favorite” for a variety of reasons, and users can even trigger actions by favoriting, such as saving content to read later in Pocket. (I believe Twitter will have to acquire a service like Pocket because I spend so much time inside, which is attention they can also monetize.) Right now, I can save the contents of an entire link that shows up in my stream with two quick taps from TweetBot, but the person who shared the link has no idea. I believe this will change. For the same reason Quora sought to default-publicize the identify of who viewed a thread (to give information to the authors about their audience), I’d suspect Twitter will do the same, making it so that in order to extract the content from a tweet, one will be forced to publicly favorite the tweet. The trade is simple — in exchange for Twitter serving you a link you’d like to read later and save, Twitter will ask for a public action in return. Of course, folks who don’t want to be public can do the work of opening the link and then extracting the content, but the majority of folks want, and this will change how folks behave on Twitter and release more information about who drives what on Twitter.

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2014 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus