Twitter has long been a platform driven by simplicity. Rooted in simple, short 140-character text messages, the goal of one’s own Twitter account has always been to provide users with an instant form of communication that was never as complicated as Facebook. In a lot of ways, due to that simplicity, it has always been Facebook’s little brother. The social media platform that is neither as heavily utilized as Facebook, nor as popular. Even so, the simplicity of the UI behind a user’s Twitter account has long been one of the keys behind its success, as acknowledged by its CEO Dick Costolo.
Yet now, with a battery of sweeping changes, Twitter has aligned itself more with the likes of Facebook and Google+, turning it into a ‘proper’ social media network, and not simply a database of mindless text messages. Those changes include providing users with a Me tab which breaks down all of their text messages, conversations, photos and other related information into a more convenient profile in which both they and users can peruse.
And with all of these new changes, Twitter has become more than simply a network that allows users to blindly broadcast their own thoughts and information. Certainly, most of its appeal still relies on that old, seemingly antiquated approach towards communication, but now, with what stands as its own form of profile pages, it has become more than simply a platform for meaningless drivel. Twitter has found a way to organize all of that chatter into something more meaningful. Or so it appears.
And appearances, as we all know, can be deceiving. The most important question surrounding the new Twitter account changes are not necessarily what it brings to the platform as a whole, but instead whether it really matters. Although Twitter has already done it, the question then lies: Is Twitter doing it all wrong?
A few months back, at a Mobile World Congress keynote speech, Dick Costolo suggested that he wanted Twitter to be “like water.” What he meant was that he wanted Twitter to be as easy to use as turning on a faucet. He wanted users to be able to access information with the flick of a wrist, and he wanted text messages to flow like water.
Still, with these new changes, Twitter appears to be departing from their formula that has made them, for such a long time, as successful as they have become. The simplicity that has made Twitter to go-to medium for breaking news and even an online resource for fueling revolutions has seemingly been forgotten.
What has differentiated Twitter from Facebook, Google+ and all of those other social network sites is that despite the fact that you technically had a ‘profile’, you didn’t really have a profile in the Facebook or Google+ sense. There was really no wall, no true photo album and certainly no chat system akin to other social media platforms, and that was perfectly fine. Twitter made you relish in and learn to adjust to the shorter, more succinct conversations that were an inherent part of the platform. And so what if somebody didn’t respond to one of your @s, or your hashtag didn’t catch on and become a worldwide trending topic? You would just try again next time and hope that that effort would succeed.
Additionally, issues like relevance and proximity were rarely taken into account in your stream or when you tried to discover new content. Discover, another one of Twitters new features, finds stories and trends based on your location, connections and other relevant information. It tries to make sense of everything that is fed through your Twitter stream.
For Better or For Worse
And yet, I still can’t decide if these changes make Twitter better or worse. For the most part, they make the network’s text messages more organized — more clean — for both users and advertisers to disseminate from one another. Keeping track of all of your connections and information in one convenient place is never really a bad thing.
But on the other hand, Twitter has always thrived on its differences from those other social media platform because it has never tried to create something that truly makes sense. It has certainly organized Twitter, but some of its allure has always lied in the rather unedited nature of it. Streams of thought simply flow in and out of the platform. Whether those thoughts gain any steam is almost entirely up to its users.
But maybe some organization is just what Twitter has needed to truly set itself apart from the other services. Maybe it has always been a little bit too disorganized and unkempt for the average person to want to truly develop their own Twitter account and actually engage with the platform.
The Big Idea
Even so, I wonder if this was Twitter’s own idea — an actual improvement on their part — or something they felt pressured to do with increasing competition from other social networks. Maybe they felt it was necessary to create a stronger sense of organization and unification amongst its users.
Or is this the beginning of the end for Twitter? In an effort to steal some of the thunder from Facebook, are they also killing themselves off?
One can only wonder. As of now, it appears that these are simply just improvement. Big improvements, sure — monumental, for some, maybe — but improvements nonetheless. It also appears that an increased sense of organization can only do the platform wonders.
But maybe Twitter wasn’t really ever intended to make sense.
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