This week, Twitter announced Jack Dorsey as their permanent CEO, and introduced a new feature called Moments (formerly Project Lightning), which offers a curated rundown of tweets and articles on particular events.
This feature has been in the works for a while, and although it hasn’t launched in Australia yet – it’s just rolling out on the web, iOS and Android in the US – it’s been receiving some positive praise. But is it enough to help Twitter turn visitors into signed up users?
Well, it’s a good strategy at least.
Twitter sees the most visitors during live events, and this feature makes events during and after the fact more consumable and less overwhelming, which is the social network’s toughest barrier to entry for new users.
But there are more changes still yet to come.
The sacred 140-character limit on tweets may be expanded in some way. It’s probably not wise to deviate away from it entirely, as it’s one of the only features (constraints?) left that makes Twitter unique from other networks, yet I do agree with Ben Thompson’s suggestion of excluding links, videos and images from the character count. He also suggests a native way to post longer pieces, much like, I imagine, Facebook Notes. I agree with this, the more native options the better.
But what needs to change at Twitter more than anything appears to be its culture. Something, which Jack Dorsey now appears able to do.
What he has done at Square after being ousted from Twitter, is quite inspirational. He’s managed to pick great teams and instil them with the autonomy they need to do their jobs well. Sure, according to Recode, he still pushes people hard when he gets involved in specific projects, but there is a trust that he’s worked hard to bring to his leadership style, and that will be important for Twitter, whose stagnating innovation may well be due to people treating the site’s most distinctive features way too sacredly.
You can’t stop evolving, and Dorsey appears to know that. And, the fact that he is a co-founder appears to give him licence to rip up the rule book he created for the way Twitter works; knowing people will follow without argument.
The phantom of what the founders would’ve wanted no longer hangs over the campus, because the (somewhat disputed) inventor of the product is now in the building with them, urging them to change things; to break things, Mark Zuckerberg’s famous motto.
And sure, some power users will be pissed off with the changes. But how is that different to Facebook’s much larger audience absolutely freaking out each time a redesign was rolled out on the social network? Things change, people yell, then people forget it happened.
Only one thing is certain in this climate, Twitter can’t stand still. If they’re going to blow up the character limit, they need to do it now. If they’re going to move more of Twitter in the direction of Moments, they need to do it now. If they’re going to reverse the order of Tweets from reverse chronological to chronological they need to do it now. Then iterate.
Dorsey seems willing to break things in order to figure out where the product needs to go. And, that’s the most exciting part of his reign. Twitter as a product has had trouble since day one. But Dorsey, with his newfound focus can hopefully make Twitter a better experience for users old and new.
He may just need to get his board in order first. But more on that next time…