Speaking today at a CES event in Las Vegas, Twitter’s Suzanne Xie unveiled some new changes that are coming to the platform this year, focusing specifically on conversations.
Xie says Twitter is adding a new setting for “conversation participants” right on the compose screen. It has four options: “Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.” Global lets anybody reply, Group is for people you follow and mention, and Panel is people you specifically mention in the tweet. The feature should be launching this year.
It’s an important feature, one my colleague Casey Newton characterizes as “narrow-casting” of tweets. Just as Facebook has been pushing users to use its private groups feature, Twitter wants to give users the option to limit the spread of their tweets. Twitter’s solution is a more interesting middle ground between public and private, focused on distribution of the tweet instead of permissions to see it.
Another feature that’s coming is a specific conversation view, including threading. The goal is to put all of a conversation “on one screen.” The screen has lines meant to easily lead you through replies and also calls out specific authors.
Xie says that the conversation interface that was initially trialed in the “little t” public prototype beta app will come to the main Twitter app in the coming months.
Rob Bishop then recapped Twitter’s ability to follow “topics” instead of just users. Soon, when you see a tweet about a certain topic from somebody you follow, Twitter may surface a button to prompt you to follow that specific topic under the tweet.
Twitter is also continuing to pay more long-needed attention to its lists features. Users will be able to customize the display of lists and Twitter will also start making screens that make it easier to find lists.
Head of product, Kayvon Beykpour says that Twitter has “picked up the pace” of product development and hopes to continue that pace. He also says that Twitter is “committed to being open and transparent and doing our work in the public more than ever before,” which explains why he and other have been so vocal lately about what its doing with the platform — including the release of an experimental beta app.
“Twitter’s purpose is to serve public conversation,” Beykpour says. He argues that Twitter’s priorities are “health, conversations, and interests” and that those are the priorities that steer its product development choices. (Editable tweets apparently has a fairly low impact on those metrics.)
Beykpour also recapped Twitter’s development work over 2019. He pointed out that right now over 50 percent of tweets the company removes for ToS violations happen proactively without users needing to report them, a huge increase over the year before. He also pointed out Twitter’s recent feature that lets people hide replies to their tweet.
Beykpour characterizes following some users as a “proxy” for following topics of interest — e.g. if you follow a political reporter, what you’re really looking to do is follow politics. So Twitter supports following a topic now, instead of just users.
CES is an odd place for Twitter, which so far as I know doesn’t make any consumer electronics. But what most companies want to do at CES is make deals, not show off products to press. Twitter is definitely trying to do that here, its space at the swank Cosmopolitan hotel is perhaps the calmest and nicest CES room I’ve been in this year.