In Pictures: 9 new Twitter features and tweaks coming in 2015
Coming soon to a Twitter timeline near you, these nine new features, which are expected to roll out during the coming year, put a new focus on video, direct messaging, alerts and notifications, and more.
New Twitter Tweaks and Feature Additions
Twitter came out swinging last week at its first-ever analyst day with a series of plans to improve existing features and add new ones during the coming months. The company faces challenges, but it appears to have finally moved beyond testing and experimentation to deliberate implementation. More than 500 million tweets are posted every day on Twitter. The company's goal is not necessarily to get more content on the platform but to increase engagement and surface more of its best and most relevant content. Here are nine new Twitter features or changes aimed at achieving those goals and expected in the coming weeks and months.
Twitter-Hosted Native Video
Video, which Twitter surprisingly doesn't give its due focus, is finally coming to the platform in a more meaningful way. You will soon be able to upload, edit and share videos directly from Twitter's compose tweet box. "Aside from just watching video more easily on Twitter, you should be able to record, edit and share your own videos natively on Twitter, too," says Kevin Weil, Twitter's vice president of product.
"We believe that during any sort of local event, national event or global event, the opportunity for people and participants to be live tweeting those things and broadcasting them to the world is a massive opportunity," says Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Native videos hosted by Twitter could also unlock more advertising revenue. To this end, video will start to play a greater role for Twitter users in the first half of next year.
More Twitter Sign-Ups and Log-Ins
Twitter has 284 million monthly active users, but an additional 500 million people visit the site each month without an account or without logging in. Celebrities and public figures attract 200 million monthly users who don't log in. The company is missing a massive opportunity because many users don't have accounts but still see tweets or visit Twitter every month. Previous tweaks and reductions in the number of required sign-up steps didn't convince many people to sign up or log in. Twitter says it will soon release a new process that should increase sign-up completion rates by at least 10 percent.
Twitter's Instant Timeline
Many newcomers to Twitter don't understand why or how to use the platform. The company has been forthcoming about the challenge and admits that it's not always obvious for new users to find relevant people to follow. "We believe that anyone should be able to come to Twitter and immediately feel deeply immersed in that world," says CEO Costolo. Instant Timeline is the company's latest attempt to improve the onboarding experience for new users, but it still requires some legwork. New users will soon be asked to identify interests, including popular accounts, news and information, sports or entertainment, and then upload their contacts to find other people they know. Instant Timeline will be personalized based on those data points and connections.
Twitter and 'While You Were Away'
It is impossible to keep up with everything on Twitter, but many users still try to do just that. It's something Twitter attempted to fix before with a "discover tab," but most users still miss out on great content and conversations. The new Timeline Highlights from "While You Were Away" feature is intended to provide a recap without eradicating the real-time experience people expect from Twitter, according to CEO Costolo.
"We want to do a better job of making great content bubble up to the top," says Trevor O'Brien, Twitter director of product management. "We want to make sure we can balance real-time signals…but also balance relevance with that real-time nature [of Twitter]."
Twitter Marketing in Mainstream Media
Twitter will focus more on advertising in the future. The company plans to increase spending on banner ads and other digital-media formats on news sites in an attempt to increase usage. Twitter is also going to buy more search engine keyword ads to drive up general awareness and increase its platform's visibility. The company says it also plans to create custom experiences for up to 25 large events, building on its success with a similar strategy for last summer's World Cup.
Twitter's Improved Messaging Features
Twitter's private direct messages, or DMs, haven't really changed since they were introduced. The company promised big changes for DMs for years, but few of its tests materialized into tangible results. When changes do come, they've been incremental at best. Twitter didn't even get around to properly syncing direct messages across platforms and devices until this past summer. A new feature that's expected to roll out this week will finally allow you to share tweets with others using direct messages. It's another obvious and long-overdue improvement, but it's unlikely to significantly increase usage.
More Standalone Apps from Twitter
Twitter has resisted the industry-wide trend toward standalone, single-use apps. The company often discusses the opportunity, however. "Like Vine, we believe there are complementary applications that can live outside of Twitter that will help us grow [to the] largest audience in the world," says Costolo. Twitter's music app failed in rather fantastic fashion, but the company didn't given up on other possible categories. Sports, for example, the biggest conversation topic on Twitter, could be an ideal space for the company to differentiate itself by providing something more meaningful in a separate app.
Twitter Alerts and Breaking News
Twitter can't seem to make up its mind about alerts and notifications. The company experimented with breaking-news notifications and push notifications for specific conversation topics to varying effect. It is trying every trick in the book to get you to spend more time with the app, and you can expect more types of notifications, though there should be settings available to turn them off. The company plans to roll out more comprehensive breaking-news alerts and could also offer more alerts for trending topics.
Twitter's Vice President of Product Kevin Weil says Twitter Cards are a "canvas within a tweet we can use to create an infinite number of ad formats." During his presentation he demonstrated future potential uses for cards, including click-to-call, custom product configuration and polling. The company is also testing a buy button that allows you to make purchases from within a tweet.