On Thursday Twitter unveiled a major overhaul that it's been working on since Jack Dorsey returned in March to lead product development. The Twitter.com site, Twitter's Android and iPhone apps, and the Tweetdeck desktop client were all part of the redesign. There are some noteworthy changes and some disappointing developments, but most of all, there's one important element that's still missing.
The Twitter homepage now looks more like the iPad app, with the functions column moving to the left side of the page and the main Twitter stream moving to the right side. The iPhone and Android apps have now been standardized. The @Mentions feed has been renamed "@Connect" and expanded to include other "interactions" such as retweets, favorited tweets, and new followers. There's also a new feed called "#Discover" that is meant to serve as a customized news feed. As Twitter describes it, "you'll see results reflecting your interests—based on your current location, what you follow and what's happening in the world." This has potential, if Twitter can build an algorithm that delivers a truly useful and automatically-customized feed.
You can find me on Twitter at @jasonhiner.
Thursday's overhaul represents the first big redesign since #NewTwitter in September 2010. So far, this one looks better than that one. When #NewTwitter launched, I wrote a piece for TechRepublic called The two features Twitter should have been working on instead of #NewTwitter. The two things I cited were Message Threading and Voting. The latest redesign pretty much takes care of message threading. When you click on a tweet now, you can see all of the people who have retweeted it or replied to it, as well as the tweet that it was replying to (if that applies). However, even a year later, Twitter has still failed to add the ability to vote up a Twitter post the way you can on Facebook (thumbs up or "Like") and Google+ ("+1").
Here's what I wrote last year about how voting could have a major impact on the usefulness of Twitter:
The other big feature Twitter needs to add is voting. It should allow us to give a thumbs up or a plus (+) to the best, most interesting, and most useful tweets. That one bit of functionality could add a ton of new value to the Twitter stream.
Then, in addition to having our big stream of the latest tweets from all of our Twitter friends, we could also have a second stream that has the highest rated tweets over the past 24 hours (with options to look at longer periods).
This would be huge for me (and a lot of others, I suspect) because I’m only on Twitter a few times a day and I don’t have time to scan back through my stream to catch all the interesting stuff. As a result, I miss a lot of the best links and conversations. It would be great to jump in and quickly catch up on my stream’s top tweets (as determined by the crowd) since the last time I logged on.
While they’re at it, the Twitter team could add another default stream so that I can see the most retweeted posts from my friends’ tweets, as well as the most retweeted posts on all of Twitter. I bet those two streams would make pretty decent news feeds. Retweeting is, after all, an even more powerful form of voting. The other benefit of voting is that Twitter users would see the kinds of posts that people following them appreciate the most, and most people will naturally gravitate toward doing more of that kind of stuff and posting less about their trips to the Taco Truck.
The other benefit of voting is that Twitter users would see the kinds of posts that people following them appreciate the most, and most people will naturally gravitate toward doing more of that kind of stuff and posting less about their trips to the Taco Truck.
I still stand by every word of that. In fact, I'd argue that the addition of voting on Twitter would have made a bigger impact than any of the changes that were rolled out today.
The redesigned Twitter site and apps all feature the new @Connect and #Discover feeds, so you can try them out right away and see what you think. The Twitter apps are available in the Android Market and iOS App Store and the redesigned Twitter.com page is being rolled out to users incrementally. I started seeing it this afternoon.
For a visual overview of Thursday's Twitter redesign, take a look at the video below.