A year on since its IPO, Twitter has come under intense pressure from Wall Street to reverse its falling user growth. Investors have been disappointed with the rate of growth on the social network, claiming that it was not innovating enough to attract new users.
Those concerns are reflected in the falling share prices for Twitter on the NYSE, falling from a peak of 73.31 in December to just 39.59 as of 10 November.
In response, Twitter has announced a series of changes that it believes will overcome some significant challenges that it has in appealing to new users. Whilst Twitter has an avid following amongst earlier adopters and social media enthusiasts, it has long recognised that the platform struggles to appeal to new markets and less social-savvy audiences.
Previously, it has been suggested that Twitter could adopt an algorithm based feed in order to address this problem and on Wednesday, it announced a number of innovations that indicates that they are very much committed to that concept.
We take a look at the five biggest changes you can expect to see.
Timeline Highlights is designed to keep relevant tweets at the top of the feed, regardless of when they were posted.
The idea is that users want the most relevant or valuable tweets to them, even if they were posted several hours ago while they were away from Twitter. If, for example, a news story of interest to you broke whilst you were away from the network, Twitter’s algorithm would try to display the most relevant or informative tweet, rather than the most recent one.
No time scales have been given for the launch of this feature, other than “soon”.
Breaking news alerts
Twitter has made no secret of the fact that it wants to position itself as a source for news discovery, and it has experimented with news notifications before.
This new feature is a development in that commitment to news discovery, with Twitter likely to focus on rolling out specific news alerts for major events.
However, it is also likely to extend to notifications about trending topics in a particular area – something that it already does in certain markets. For example, it could deliver specific notifications about adverse weather warnings in particular regions.
One of the biggest challenges that Twitter faces is that it requires new users to be invested in making it work for them. User churn has long been a problem for Twitter, with some surveys claiming that as many as half of Twitter's 974m users have never sent a single tweet. When Twitter went public, the company claimed that just 232m users - around 24% of the claimed 974m user base - log in at least once a month.
Instant Timeline is designed to address that problem.
Instead of being faced with an empty news feed that they have to populate by following other users, Twitter will instead display a timeline of tweets, likely to be highly rated tweets on a variety of topics, until a user builds up a sufficient network of people they follow.
Twitter has announced that it is working on a tool to let users “take, edit and share video in real-time on the Twitter platform”. Put simply, you’ll be able to shoot, cut and share videos directly from the ‘compose tweet’ button.
"We believe that during any sort of local event, national event, global event, the opportunity for people, participants, to be live tweeting those things and broadcasting them to the world is a massive opportunity," said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. "That's one of the reasons we are so excited about consumer video."
If this feature takes off, expect to see Twitter make serious moves into the video advertising market.
A revamped private message system
Direct messaging is getting a big revamp. Details are limited at the moment, but we have been promised that “significant functionality” will be added to the private messaging features of Twitter. We do know however that, from next week, you will be able to share public tweets in direct messages.