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Summary:

Twitter today updated its web site to be faster and more modern. After the presentation was over, I had a chance to talk to Twitter product managers, executives and engineers about the new site. Here are some of the tidbits I learned.

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Twitter today updated its website to make it faster and more modern, bringing previously buried features and connections out in the open, in a bid to increase user consumption and engagement. I just got back from the launch event at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, which I covered live here. After the presentation was over, I had a chance to talk to Twitter product managers, executives and engineers about the new site. Here are some of the tidbits I learned:

  1. Although no specific number was given during the presentation, Twitter is rolling out the new site to 1 percent of its 160 million registered users tonight, said product manager Kevin Cheng. A lot of tech launches are U.S. only, but this is worldwide.
  2. The code name for the new launch was Phoenix (Kind of funny when you think of the metaphorical bird rising from the ashes. As long as in this metaphor the ashes are the fail whale.)
  3. The new Twitter.com is a full Twitter client using the company’s APIs. It was built on the @anywhere platform, which helps pull information about profiles and other data in order to be displayed in JavaScript. @anywhere was previously known as the little media widgets the company announced at SXSW this year. Two engineers played around with building a Twitter client on top of @anywhere and demoed it, then the company decided to run with it as a larger project.
  4. Twitter wants to position itself as a place for fast and easy consumption of information. Product manager Josh Elman said that he expects Twitter will be more like Google than Facebook: a destination for quick visits rather than extended time-wasting and engagement sessions. Twitter users come to the service when they have an extra moment waiting in line, and return throughout the day. Elman (who previously worked at Facebook) said it’s philosophically important for Twitter that the people don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for when they access the service; they just want to be informed. (More on Twitter CEO Evan Williams’ thoughts on that topic here.) Cheng said that it’s more important for people to get a lot out of each visit to the Twitter site than it is for them to spend more time there.
  5. Ryan Sarver, who leads Twitter’s platform team, talked to me about the relationships Twitter established with 16 media providers — sites like TwitPic and YouTube. These were necessary, he said, because many of the photo sites don’t offer embed codes. Although Twitter photo providers will presumably lose monetizable page views now that users won’t be clicking through to view photos as much, Sarver pointed out the alternative might have been for Twitter to launch its own video and photo hosting service — and none of the third-party providers want that.
  6. Sarver also talked about deals Twitter made with Kiva and Etsy to display embedded content when users tweet links to their pages. Again, these are a move to display more content formatted inline so users don’t have to click through. You can expect Twitter to expand these widgets to other sites, he said. I asked what Twitter might do to help preview links to web pages; after all Williams said 25 percent of tweets contain links, and not all of them are to media files. Sarver said the company has thought about doing something like pulling full text from RSS feeds when possible, but the problem is RSS is too slow. (Update: even with PubSubHubbub is not broadly enough deployed, Sarver clarified.) Many times people tweet links to articles before it’s ever been transmitted to RSS, and that delay would break the system. An alternative would be to do something like take snippets of stories like the iPad app Flipboard does, but Sarver said he wasn’t sure that was a great solution either, given copyright implications.
  7. What about the impact of the new Twitter on third-party competitors like Brizzly (where a big part of the appeal has been inline video and photos in a Twitter stream on a web page)? Elman said that he thought good Twitter apps will be more like Zynga on Facebook — a gaming provider that’s turbo-boosted by the social layer — rather than RockYou and Slide, which tried to build features to supplement Facebook itself.
  8. The new Twitter.com doesn’t include user streams — the real-time updates of tweets that clients like TweetDeck are now offering — but Twitter is working to add this.
  9. Another big platform project, Annotations, has been put on hold, because the infrastructure team was working on the Twitter.com launch, Sarver said.
  10. On the new Twitter.com, when you click on a tweet in the left pane, in the right pane you’ll see things like tweets with the same hashtag, or tweets in the same conversation, or tweets in the same place. That’s part of a separate product made by its own team at Twitter called Related Tweets. At some point in the future, Related Tweets will be available for other Twitter clients, including those from outside providers, said Cheng.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

How Twitter Is Re-Engineering to Address Always-on Usage

  1. This was a really helpful writeup – thanks

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  2. Very interesting stuff.

    Thanks for the post and following the announcement so closely then getting all the interview and question snippets Liz, great stuff.

    It will be interesting to see how this pans out – I would be surprised to see large transitions of people starting to use the twitter based web-platform more often, but these additions are definitely something worth vying with.

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  3. new twitter

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  4. Sounds like twitter is fast becoming the “database of serendipites” (contrasting with Batelle’s account of Google as “database of intentions”)

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    1. That’s an interesting analogy. Might apply to Foursquare-type stuff too.

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  5. I am really excited for the two panes! Should be exciting!

    http://www.danfonseca.wordpress.com

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  6. Not sure why Ryan would say that PubSubHubbub is too slow, because technically, it’s as fast as Twitter can be. Not more, not less. These are basically HTTP calls.

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  7. [...] 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the New Twitter.com « September 14, 2010Tracked on [...]

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  8. @Liz.

    Why didn’t you ask Twitter about M/M% revenues, since @Anywhere started? It’ll give you point 11:

    Is Twitter profitable? Revenue growth?

    I can’t wait for twitter to be deadpool–which it will in 3 years–so I don’t have to read all the spin.

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    1. But clearly that’s something you already firmly know, Brad, so why would it belong in this story? :)

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  9. No Twitter stream means we can’t get our or our friends status updates? I wonder what will happen to the twitter API in that case?

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  10. It’s about time they did something to make twitter.com usable and claw back some users from the third party market.

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  11. nice post

    I’d like to see better integration of twitter lists. I disagree with josh elman’s view in point #4 – I don’t think it should be just for quick visits, but also longer visits, using it as a ‘homespace’ that one always returns to. I’d also love to see them develop the twitter mobile apps accordingly.

    perhaps the biggest challenge will be how to bring new people onto twitter – so far still dominated by techies, geeks and nerds. this new twitter format should help, but perhaps not enough to make a step change for non-twitter users (but 350,000 sign-ups per day suggests that might also not be a problem)

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  12. The biggest change here to me is that the new twitter will allow the company to generate revenue more effectively. Creating a dedicated content area means the company can now start to monetize that content a little bit at a time

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  13. On Point No. 4. I use Del.icio.us for resources but recently switched to Twitter because of the same massive list of information I could dig up.

    Can’t wait on the new Twitter though :)

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  14. [...] night – Twitter started the roll out of New Twitter. Word is – it’s completely built on their own API platform and formally integrates 16 other [...]

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  15. The new design and the recent approach taken by twitter of not supporting its developer ecosystem with some pretty bold statements and even point 5 in your list shows them showing middle finger to all the multimedia hosting companies like twitpic I see all this killing their chances of being a independent company in the long run

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  16. [...] no todo lo que hay por saber de este “nuevo Twitter” se dio a conocer a noche. En GigaOm han tenido la oportunidad de hablar con parte del equipo de desarrollo, y estos son algunos datos [...]

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  17. It’ll be nice to see this in action. The new two panel display looks very slick

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  18. [...] Sin embargo, no todo lo que hay por saber de este “nuevo Twitter” se dio a conocer a noche. En GigaOm han tenido la oportunidad de hablar con parte del equipo de desarrollo, y estos son algunos datos [...]

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  19. [...] no todo lo que hay por saber de este “nuevo Twitter” se dio a conocer a noche. En GigaOm han tenido la oportunidad de hablar con parte del equipo de desarrollo, y estos son algunos datos [...]

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  20. Milestone! Interesting! But without testing I cannot really provide any feedback. How did they decide who are the lucku users to test the new pane?

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  21. With all the changes Twitter is making, they are doing a great job of killing off the ecosystem of partners
    http://idonot.es/auTQu6

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  22. This is what I think Twitter will do to address the url issue. It will require more servers though. http://twitter.com/#!/vishigondi/status/24522774885

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  23. [...] In item #6 this article quotes Ryan Sarver, Director of Platform at Twitter, explaining why Twitter doesn’t extract snippets from feeds: “[PubSubHubbub] is fast enough, RSS is not. PSHB isn’t broad enough yet.” [...]

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  24. [...] 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the New Twitter.com Updated. [...]

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  25. [...] mentioned an interesting comment on it.. The code name for the new launch was Phoenix (Kind of funny when you think of the [...]

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  26. [...] of the company over to his former COO. “Twitter is on a roll,” Williams said. The recent redesign of the website has been popular with users, he added, and “user and usage numbers are growing at a rapid [...]

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  27. [...] as it matures is structural: expanding its headcount dramatically, fixing its stability issues, redesigning the website, launching official apps for the iPhone and Android, etc. But much of what Costolo has done is also [...]

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  28. [...] partnerships). In any case, one thing that Twitter could get from this arrangement is more traffic to its newly relaunched website, since the media pane with cover art and song previews will only be available there (at least until [...]

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