By: Hillel Fuld
Not sure if you heard yet but Twitter invited pretty much every single blogger (well almost) to their headquarters yesterday for an announcement. There was a lot of speculation about what they were going to announce, but I don’t think anyone hit the jackpot. Twitter is revamping the Web interface completely so it resembles the iPad Twitter app, which I reviewed here. The new Twitter will be rolling out gradually but eventually everyone will be using it.
Here is Scoble’s video of the announcement if you want to watch how it went down.
Here is the thing with this announcement, it is a lot more than just a new redesign, it really does change everything. One of the most blatant characteristics about the micro blogging service, and what separates it from other social networks is its absolute simplicity. Twitter is a platform with an API upon which thousands of developers have created applications.
In terms of Twitter the company, this simplicity is a two edged sword. On the one hand, the Web interface is completely idiot proof so anyone can sign up for the service and begin tweeting immediately. When the user becomes more of a Twitterholic (it happens to the best of us), they can switch over to using a more advanced client such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic. These clients are much more developed and have many more features than the Web interface but they are not for everyone. So that is the advantage of the Twitter interface we have been using until now and the down side of the new design. It will be more complicated for some but more importantly it signifies a change in Twitter’s philosophy of keeping it simple.
On the flip side, I am no expert on this stuff, but I am assuming that since a quarter of the 90 million tweets sent every day include links to articles, pictures, or videos, every time a user has to click on one of those links and thereby leave Twitter, the overall traffic to Twitter.com sees the effects. With the new Twitter that will resemble an app, the links will all be displayed in line as part of the stream, which will obviously boost Twitter’s traffic significantly. I am assuming this is what lead to the decision to launch the new design along with bringing it up to speed with the best of the Twitter clients out there.
Here is the thing, I am not sure this is going to work. I know I am personally not going to stop using Tweetdeck based on the design Twitter announced yesterday. Putting aside the debate about native apps vs Web apps, Tweetdeck (and Seesmic Desktop 2) still blow the Web interface out of the water. I can give many examples of why this is, and the truth is, I have not even tried the new interface yet (Twitter, send it to me already) but there is no way it is going to be as customizable as the average Twitter client.
To name one concrete manifestation of these shortcomings, take Twitter Lists. Many people, myself included follow a whole lot more people than they can ever really follow. What I mean is that I follow close to 11,000 people but I do not read every single tweet sent by those people. I set up lists of people I really enjoy and connected with, and I focus primarily on these lists. That takes my 11,000 people that I follow and turns it into around 600 or so. A lot easier to manage.
With Tweetdeck, I deleted my All Friends column since as I said it would be impossible to follow and added my list there instead. That is not going to be possible on Twitter.com. In fact, it is even worse than that. On many Twitter iPad apps, you have one click access to your lists, on Twitter.com, at least according to Scoble’s blog post from the event, accessing your lists on the new Twitter will involve multiple steps. That to me is a deal breaker.
As I said, I have not tested out the new Twitter yet so some might say I am jumping the gun with formulating an opinion about it, but based on the initial reviews, the video below, and what I expect to see, I am pretty sure many people will move over to the Web interface, but at this stage, it will in no way kill off the proliferation of 3rd party Twitter apps. They will continue to flourish in the near future.
What are your impressions of the announcement yesterday? Do you think this is going to improve or deteriorate the quality of the overall Twitter experience? Please let me know in the comments or connect with me on Twitter.