In the last few weeks, Twitter has been rolling out a new profile layout. If you were one of Twitter’s randomly selected users, you immediately noticed the change, and maybe something else. Does the layout remind you of anything? Perhaps you can sense the inspiration from another social media goliath? That’s right. Twitter now looks like Facebook’s doppelgänger.
I recently got the notification telling me that I have the opportunity to use the new profile. It does sound appealing. It has several new features such like a custom header image and the ability to pin tweets. Unfortunately, after a couple minutes of perusing the new site, I had the uncontrollable urge to switch it back. While I enjoy Twitter’s ability to pick and choose some of the better parts of other social media platforms and add it to their existing layout, this tactic may have created a “Frankenstein’s Monster” situation and that could subsequently drive away users and impact the platform’s popularity.
The beauty of Twitter lies in their 140-character max. The brevity of the posts make sure that tweets get straight to the nitty-gritty. No fluff. No excess. Perfect for the Internet where TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) is commonly used as an excuse for skipping over content. In a world where bigger is often deemed as better, the minimalistic nature of Twitter is refreshing. In practice, however, some users end up feeling bogged down by a constant barrage of these brief posts and videos from various friends, celebrities, companies, and news outlets. This new Twitter, which allows users to focus more on quality than quantity, might be a great way to remedy this issue, but at what cost?
Yesterday, Twitter shares hit an all-time low after user growth has continued to lag. This confused many as their quarterly report showed that they had exceeded their expected earnings and overall revenue is up. The decrease in new users is not to blame for the stock drop, as it is not only expected, but may be beneficial, as Twitter reaches its breakpoint and starts focusing on quality instead of quantity according to our CEO, Jeff Stibel. He states we can attribute this decline in stock value instead to the increasing lack of engagement.
People are engaging less with Twitter and starting to look for more specific forms of social media to give them their fix with fewer distractions. FishBrain, for example, is a social networking site for fishermen. There is no question of what users are going to see when they log in. If you are a fisherman, this has more appeal than having to sift through a Twitter feed to see the one picture your friend posted of their freshly caught largemouth bass. In response to this, Twitter’s new layout allows users to fine-tune their feeds. They can can view tweets with or without replies, add a cover photo, and pin their favorite tweets to the tops of their feeds. So, if someone wants to make their page appear more fishing-centric, they now have a better ability to control this.
Facing the threat of niche networking, it makes sense that Twitter is changing its layout and, consequently, the way it will be used. While these improvements will be welcomed by many with open arms, it is still unclear of why it has to evolve into something that already exists. Facebook only recently added the ability to hashtag and now Twitter is impersonating Facebook’s layout. Perhaps this clash of the titans is foreshadowing the distant future in which only one large, consolidated social media platform exists amongst many smaller, content-based networks.
Maybe I am being too cynical and I am just one of the folks who hates when the Internet changes. My internet mantra: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is echoing in my mind, but it might be time to let that go. The fast paced nature of the internet allows these sites to fix things before we even know they are broken. Like parents forcing their children to eat vegetables, maybe Twitter knows what its users need and only wants what is best for us.
I know that the ultimate, irreversible switch is imminent, and that I will accept it because I have no choice in the matter. But, similar to a child being forced to eat their peas, that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.
TL;DR: Twitter is having an identity crisis and now looks like Facebook.
Photo Credit: Andreas Eldh, Flickr