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Why Twitter’s new Conversations view is a big deal and why it matters for its IPO

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No one in Silicon Valley has any doubt that San Francisco-based Twitter is on a road to a public offering. Given its current valuation — estimated at around or over $10 billion — and the amount of money it has raised (between $700-to-800 million) all Twitter investors big and small as well as its employees are waiting for their moment on Wall Street. The question is simple — when will Twitter go public?

From the way it looked earlier this year, the company was on track to file for a public offering later this year and then actually tap the markets in spring of 2014. In order to do that, the company needed to hit two major milestones — over 400 million users and about a billion dollars in revenues. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wanted the company to hit the 400 million mark in 2013. No one really knows how and why that user count number came about — but it did. If an eMarketer report from today is any indication, Twitter will hit about $580 million in revenues this year — nothing to sneeze at, but not quite a billion dollars either.

Inside Twitter’s new Market Street offices (photo courtesy of Twitter via Flickr)

And now, my sources — quite well placed — tell me that the company is not going to be able to meet that target. Twitter experiences a lot of churn and many people who sign up for the service then find themselves bewildered and bamboozled by what is going on. People come in to Twitter hoping to find a timeline that looks somewhat like Facebook’s Newsfeed and instead find a fast-moving stream that can be very disorienting.

Others get bored and leave. And in order to stem that churn, Twitter has quietly undertaken a makeover that makes its timeline much more Facebook like.

Twitter and Facebook: Glimmer Twins

The Conversations view — announced earlier today — is yet another step towards making Twitter more Facebook-like. First, what is the conversations view? Well, when someone tweets and one or more people reply, a conversation forms. It is easier for people to follow along, especially if you follow one or more people in that conversation. Conversation tweets start to look like comments on a blog post or on a Facebook posting.

Participating in those conversations means that people who are on Twitter will hang about longer because they will be focused on discrete conversations. It is the same reason why most of us leave Facebook turned on in a browser window or a Facebook app running in the background.

Mark Zuckerberg returned to Harvard for a recruiting trip last year.
Mark Zuckerberg returned to Harvard for a recruiting trip last year.

The conversation view is in fact the final step in Twitter’s attempt to become like Facebook. Over past few months, Twitter has introduced many new elements or object types to its timeline. Photos (which lead to a fracas with Instagram,) Music, Videos (via Vine), and Twitter Cards in addition to pre-existing objects that were shared on Twitter such as status updates, location information and links.

And by turning tweets into conversations, the company has introduced the ultimate Facebook-like object — status/comments/conversations into its stream. Twitter’s Favorite is its proxy for Facebook’s Like. The next thing I expect from Twitter — inline content consumption a la Pocket. And when that happens, Twitter will have turned the 140-character limit into the ultimate payload carrying content-object missile. Take a bow, team Twitter, it is okay to be immodest for a few minutes!

Mommy, why do all social networks look the same?

Don’t worry, Twitter isn’t the only one who is taking cues from others. Facebook too is very much trying to become a Twitter-like lightweight platform for content sharing. It is even adopting hashtags and is looking to use content sharing to wider web audiences as well.

web_summary_0What is going on? Well, how about the standardization of all social platforms around the concept of objects and comments, especially on mobile.

Objects are photos, videos, links, location data, status updates — and people like to share these pieces of comments. The behaviors around these objects are also getting standardized in the form of likes, shares and re-shares. The content shapes too are getting standard — squares mostly — thanks to the shift to the mobile. In very near future, it would be hard to distinguish the difference between the timelines/social streams/news feeds on anything social: Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, this opens up opportunities for startups who can not only work on finding new behaviors but also create differentiation via design and interactions — sort of like how Flipboard has turned its timeline into a reading-first experience, slowing down the timeline based on our desire to interact and consume the content.

All about the Benjamins

And like I said earlier, this new view is about attracting the sorely needed new users for Twitter. “It is about making the service more human and have more empathy to new users,” one of our sources told us. Our sources tell us that churn and retention are the number one headache at Twitter and the company is trying to make sure it finds a way to get those new users hanging around the service.


Twitter needs new users. Twitter needs users to hang about longer. Twitter needs them to sell more ads and thus make more revenue and go public. As expected many of us early adopters who got used to Twitter’s fast-moving stream are finding the new changes (around conversations) unsettling, but we all need to get used to it.

The reverse chronological streams that were the mainstay of social platforms are going the way of Web 2.0. And nothing we can do or say will matter — it is about the benjamins now.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo at a company event. (Photo courtesy of Twitter via Flickr)

15 Responses to “Why Twitter’s new Conversations view is a big deal and why it matters for its IPO”

  1. Twitter will not grow, if it continues to do mindless design disasters like its recent update that has created user irritating linking of conversations and repeating of tweets in the timeline. This update at the end of August is a complete nightmare for users. My view is people will stop using twitter simply because of the car crash they have created on the timeline. Its not something that will improve in time, that there designers seem to think. I would say 90% of current regular users do not want blue line linking or tweets reappearing at the top of their timeline. If you are a user that followes the same grouping of people, it simply has rendered the timeline a complete mess.

    The fact is twitter can only be improved in certain areas and users dont want wholesale changes like recently as they will simply stop using it.

    The ‘blue line repetitive tweets’ just give users a big headache and its an instant turn off.

  2. I thought linkedin deserves a mention here, because they (too) were trying to be Facebook-like, Twitter-like and ultimately blur the definition of what one ought to use FB, linkedin and twitter for.

    Will they all look alike? I am afraid so.

  3. Jumbling up the Home and Contacts streams destroys Twitter’s immediacy and usefulness.

    Everyone hates it. I’ve yet to see anyone say they like the blue lines or want to see loads of random conversations that are nothing to do with them.

    It’s like New Facebook all over again. I’ve barely used Facebook since 2009 and I’m sure lots of people will be just as pissed off with Twitter.

    “The love of money is the root of all evil”. Twitter don’t give a monkeys what its current users want or need.

    The sooner someone develops a decent replacement for Twitter that does what Twitter used to be so good for, the better.

    It’s a complete abortion.

  4. Twitter needs this, twitter needs that, twitter needs…. All about twitter needs!?

    What about providing a service that the marketplace needs and wants? Maybe twitter has maxed out its usefulness. Just because twitter needs users and revenue doesn’t mean the world (people) and their money need twitter.


  5. Slayerwulfe

    i have written stories on twitter “slayerwulfe0slayerwulfe” my first moments on twitter. you can do what you want, but twitter is for the intelligent and trying to make it for the masses is the problem, the message be more clever challenged me!

  6. Articles sums up the benefits of standardization for the users, Familiarity, which means that the platforms get to keep the users and get others to refer. Finally it is all coming together same way for the web and apps where we take certain elements for granted not that they can be changed but familiarity helps them use and navigate better. Mostly it is a win for user experience.

  7. Dhanraj Konduru

    Though, it might be an apt comparison to say that twitter is headed in the direction of fb timeline, from a mobile, usability stand point, it has reduced the number of interactions (taps) that we make to gorge into conversations and made it much simpler to relate and view them, right on; Completely agree with the words “human”, “empathy”.

    Folks who extensively use and understand twitter can deal with the plethora of continuous stream and new entrants join with a tendency to catch up and get lost and then leave. If it is to show a friendly face to new users, my thought would be to emphasize them to understand lists as an optional/configurable tab and teaching the new users to create a list with the folks they’re friend-ed with or met in real life. This helps them connect and stay continued for longer duration. The more effort it invests in making new users understand by helping them connect with friendly faces, they better chances of them to adapt to the stream. One step at a time.

  8. Contrarah

    Making Twitter like Facebook (or vice versa) is not in any way the same as disliking change. It’s about trying to stem homogeneity and to keep platforms as entities which provide us with something new and different. Of course twitter needs to make money, but by sacrificing the pleasure of its use? That started to happen at the moment Sponsored Ads with no real targeting were vomited all over my feed.

  9. Drew Meyers

    If Twitter becomes just like FB, they either need to beat them or die, as there will be no need for two social networks that do the exact same thing. I use Twitter and FB for two very different things; I don’t find interesting content from people I don’t know on FB, whereas I do on Twitter. If Twitter moves away from what it’s good for in my book, then it becomes irrelevant to me pretty quickly.

    • I specifically like twitter BECAUSE they arent like Crapbook! I never jumped on the FB bandwagon because I wasnt interested in all the crap they shoving in front of me to monetize their service.

      If twitter goes that route I will have no compunction getting rid off them too. My pops always said ‘if it aint broke dont fix it!’

  10. Steve Ardire

    Blendo is boring and best nugget of your post is “this opens up opportunities for startups who can not only work on finding new behaviors but also create differentiation via design and interactions”