Twitter’s recent interface update is probably the single biggest change to the site since its launch. By expanding its columns to see multimedia content straight from tweets, it shows that Twitter is looking at how to engage a wider audience, and to provide a richer experience for advertisers.
By keeping the roll-out to Twitter.com, it also suggests that Twitter wants to turn back the tide which has seen a massive part of its user-base accessing the service via 3rd party mobile and desktop apps, such as Tweetdeck, HootSuite and others. Although Twitter has released its own official apps for iPhone and Blackberry, many of these 3rd party apps still have very large audiences.
If Twitter wishes to thrive, it has to be able to successfully monetize its audience, which is the reason that they’ve launched Promoted Tweets & Trends. These are not currently live on 3rd party apps, but will be at some point soon. However, Twitter has said that it will share 50% of revenue with the developers of the apps where the ads appear, and for this reason it seems obvious (to me at least) that it is in Twitter’s interest to retain as much direct traffic as possible, and hang on to the revenue with it.
By giving people more reasons to visit Twitter.com, and a more compelling, deeper experience when they’re there, Twitter obviously has its eyes on a larger audience, and the bigger ad budgets that come with them. Of course, whether they succeed is another matter entirely.
In many ways, Twitter’s success has been based on its ad hoc nature. As users found a need for something, they also developed a solution: retweets, hashtags, etc. However, as Twitter has grown it has often tried to take control of these things that its users created. The most obvious example of this is its changes to the retweet system, which stopped people being able to edit retweets before sending them. I’m sure that I’m not alone in hating this new system, and have refused to use any of its official apps because they bind you to it.
As Twitter continues to grow, it will have to balance its desire to have control of its ecosystem with the benefits it accrues by allowing people to evolve the service.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.