Beyond search: Twitter joins the discovery wave


With the rise of social platforms and emergence of new mobile and connected devices, we have seen an explosion in the amount of information being created and consumed. It is not a surprise that we have quietly entered the post-search world.

And with information exploding on the web, companies big and small are finding ways to organize it around constructs such as “knowledge” and “interests.” Think of these as attempts to push the Internet into “discovery” phase.

Yesterday, Google announced its Knowledge graph. Today, Twitter is introducing a way to follow others based on interests. In a blog post, the company said:

Currently, when new users come to Twitter, we show them all almost the same suggestions for what or who to follow. That isn’t ideal. Since you have individual interests, you should get individual suggestions. To make it easier and faster for everyone to get started on Twitter, we’re beginning some experiments with tailored suggestions in a number of countries around the world.

The first experiment will show new users a list of accounts that we recommend you follow, alongside a timeline filled with Tweets from those accounts. If you’re part of the experiment, you’ll see a Twitter experience that’s relevant to you right when you sign up. (Of course, you can always choose to not follow the suggested accounts that don’t interest you.)

If you’re a current user, you may see tailored suggestions in Who to follow so you can constantly find interesting and relevant accounts that are new to you.

In doing so, Twitter is also telling the world that Google and Facebook aren’t the only game in town and it has a reach to match those mega-billion dollar giants.

These tailored suggestions are based on accounts followed by other Twitter users and visits to websites in the Twitter ecosystem. We receive visit information when sites have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets, similar to what many other web companies — including LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube — do when they’re integrated into websites. By recognizing which accounts are frequently followed by people who visit popular sites, we can recommend those accounts to others who have visited those sites within the last ten days.

(That paragraph also explains why Twitter was talking about its new do not track privacy policy earlier this morning.)

Twitter is trying to solve what my colleague Mathew Ingram calls its “filter” problem. It isn’t the only one. Zite, a mobile app, for example has tried to organize articles and blog posts around “interests.” Prismatic, arguably one of the best of all new services, is building the digital daily newspaper.

Back in 2008, I wrote a post, Can serendipity make you rich? arguing:

The problem is that there’s too much data coming online too quickly, and the traditional method of search that involves first finding and then consuming the information is not going to work for much longer. There just won’t be enough time for us to do that and still have a life. It’s a problem, and therefore solving it is an opportunity — a very big opportunity.

Well, looks like many companies are looking at the opportunity and licking their chops. And that can’t be a bad thing for us, the people of the Internet.


Zite and new notions of content discovery will be part of the discussion about the ever-changing media landscape at paidContent 2012: At The Crossroads on May 23 in New York City.

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings


Comments have been disabled for this post