Live Blogging the Twitter Event: Easier Discovery, Enhanced Profiles, More Direct Challenge To Facebook
I’m at the new Twitter HQ (not for six months) in San Francisco with the tech press corps awaiting a Twitter press conference that I will attempt to faithfully live blog. In the meantime, here are some shots from the new space, which is three floors and exceeds 200,000 square feet. The build out should be pretty spectacular. The building was completed in the same year as the Golden Gate bridge in 1937, and has been vacant for several years.
Twitter has 700 employees today and expects to be able to accomodate “thousands of people” in the coming years as Twitter scales. But it will also maintain and grow other regional Twitter offices around the world according to CEO Dick Costolo.
(The connection is really bad.)
Co-founder Jack Dorsey is with him, saying that the Apple integration has increased Twitter growth dramatically around the world. He cited a 25 percent figure but I wasn’t clear if that was monthly.
Dorsey: revenue is growing. Advertisers are seeing 3 percent to 5 percent engagement. VW has seen 50 percent engagement. These ad products are coming to mobile as well. Self-service ads have launched.
Costolo: Speaking about the redesign launching today he says, “We wanted to create an experience where the universe of the tweet is contained in the context of the tweet.” That’s like a Zen koan. What does that mean exactly? It means that more content and context will follow the tweet wherever it goes.
Dorsey: people are using hashtags everywhere. Twitter @ sign is a shorter substitute for a URL, so is a hashtag. “This is the new URL, the way people are interacting with content. But the problem is no one understands what theses symbols mean.”
They want to make it easier to discover content and information on Twitter more intuitively. They cite Apple as a “mentor company” in this regard.
Costolo: we have an obligation to reach every person on the planet. “There are still billions of people who aren’t on Twitter — yet.” He says, “We have to provide the simplest and fastest way for people around the world to connect to everything they care about.” We have to create the “simplest, fastest service” that will enable us to reach everyone on the planet.
Dorsey: Four elements to redesign with simplified navigation and content discovery:
- Home timeline: the “universe of the tweet” is contained within the tweet anywhere it appears. Costolo: you’ll be able to get the embed code that can embed the universe of the tweet in blogs and sites. “Timeline delivery is 500 percent faster than it was.”
- Connect: Enter @username in the searchbox: “The new URL; the fastest way to connect someone to brands and content anywhere in the world,” explains Dorsey.
- Discovery: People can click on or enter the hashtag and see all the content and conversation relevant to that story. But they’ll be able to search on company names, topics, brands and keywords and get the same content as if they had the hashtag. Costolo is also talking about personalization around hashtags. (It wasn’t clear to me how this works.) He also says that now you’ll be able to see all the “activities” of the people you follow and how they’re engaging on Twitter.
- New improved profile pages: Profile pages are much richer; more media, video and images — for individuals, brands and organizations. Brands will have a “much richer canvas” to promote and explain themselves. Only select brands and orgs for now, however. (This is intended to be a challenge to Facebook pages, and perhaps Google+ as well.)
Costolo takes an indirect jab at Facebook: “As other services offer feature after feature, where going to take a different approach” — simplicity. The “new Twitter” is “just the foundation that will enable us to innovate really quickly across all of our platforms.”
Dorsey: The tweet button is more broadly integrated across the site.
Costolo: New twitter is launching now across all apps as well. But will slowly roll out to 100 percent of users “over the next few weeks.”
This is not just a physical redesign but a “conceptual redesign.”
It strikes me that Twitter is doing something really audacious here: it’s going after Facebook more directly with the enhanced profiles (for brands and companies, as well as users). It’s also aiming to replace the URL for companies with the @ symbol (and to a lesser degree the hashtag). That has been a kind of informal practice, but this is much more explicit and self-conscious now.
Improved search functionality
Twitter’s ambition is to make content and conversation discovery much more intuitive and broadly available, so that users don’t have to use specific hashtags. Some improvements — although no one could tell me specifically what they were — have been made on the back end to make search better on the site.
Here are several screens that show the new Twitter, which offers simplified navigation and easer content discovery (note the @ and # on the nav bar across the top of my profile):
Here’s an example of a corporate profile (DisneyPixar). You can see that it’s much more effective as a branding and promotional tool. These new pages are intended (though no one said anything like this) to give Facebook Pages a run for their money — though brands will do both.
Postscript: See our follow-up stories:
- New, Enhanced Profiles A Boon To Brands On Twitter
- Embeddable Tweets: Add Single Tweets To Any Web Page & Skip The Screenshots