Twitter’s Conversation Changes

If you’re a Twitter user you may have noticed these strange blue lines in your timeline linking tweets that are part of a conversation in chronological order (oldest first). Of course, this can be a little bit daunting at first, because Twitter’s timeline works from newest first. Don’t worry, you will quickly get used to it.

In the past Twitter users needed to click a tweet mentioning other users in order to be informed about, understand and even join conversations being had by people they follow. The new conversation format changes this.

One of the primary effects of this is that users are included more in conversations that people in their timeline are having. It encourages them to join the conversation. This is in Twitter’s best interest because it gets people to tweet more about likely important issues while interacting with people.

This is an interesting change, as it shows that Twitter is going through its features and experience with a magnifying glass and trying to enhance anything (and everything) they can. Ultimately, these conversation changes have the effect of helping Twitter become more social by encouraging more interaction between tweeters, instead of solo commentaries. People new to Twitter see their timeline sprawling with conversations, making it a much more interesting social network. Another small addition that supports this point is the fact that Twitter has made it significantly easier to edit your profile. Now you simply go to your profile and click ‘edit’, and the information — bio, location, web address, display picture — all become editable.

So why? These changes are part of a much bigger picture. Twitter’s primary competitor is Facebook, and it’s not harsh to say that Facebook are playing dirty. We mentioned in a previous blog that Facebook has basically copied the idea of SnapChat and will be releasing its own version within two weeks. Lately, Facebook has also introduced hashtags, and word on the street is that they’re looking into trending topics and even attacking LinkedIn by adding a ‘professional skills’ section. On top of this, Facebook are trying to take some of Twitter’s core advertisers (TV broadcasters) by integrating tools to give them access to user data. Ultimately, Facebook is trying to be Facebook (as it always has been) but is also trying to be Twitter, making it useful for social conversation but also global conversation, which has always been Twitter’s absolute forté. Naturally Twitter will be concerned, as it would be very easy for them to be effectively cannibalised by Facebook’s rapid speed of innovation.

Other examples of Facebook and Twitter’s growing conflict is that of Vine and Instagram video, with Facebook releasing the latter’s video capability basically in direct competition with Twitter’s Vine video service. Vine was an attempt by Twitter to extend its abilities as a social network, and add video. Vines would appear in the drop down info of a tweet and be viewable straight from there. However, Facebook knew that if Instagram had video capability then it would cannibalise Vine, because the people who already have a following on Instagram would like to share videos too.

It would seem, however, Twitter still have a firm grip on their place in the social network stratosphere, though it doesn’t change how worrying Facebook’s new feature implementation is for them. For many, Twitter has been Twitter and Facebook has been Facebook for a long time. They are different kinds of social networks, and the reason they are separate is because people like them separate. Ultimately, one of the most worrying factors here is the idea that we might end up with less effective social networks because of this competition. If Facebook keeps trying to be Twitter, and Twitter keeps trying to combat this by adding Facebook-like functionality then we ultimately just end up with two almost identical social networks that are just as good as the other at doing the same thing. And that’s not how it’s meant to be.

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