The new Twitter – not what we signed up for?

Nowhere is the maxim “adapt or die” more apt than in the IT industry. And within the IT industry, the social media niche has seen such interest and growth that simply sitting on laurels and living on past successes is not an option. This is probably one of the reasons why Twitter has revealed a new look.

There are a number of design changes to the Twitter interface that will gradually be rolled out to all users – so don’t think you are going crazy if you can’t see the changes yet. The most obvious change – and most strategically critical for Twitter – is a new ‘split-screen’ interface. Twitter explains part of the reasoning for these design changes in a blog post:

The constraint of 140 characters drives conciseness and lets you quickly discover and share what’s happening. Yet, we’ve learned something since starting Twitter—life doesn’t always fit into 140 characters or less.

Well, anybody who regularly uses Twitter could have told you that. But wasn’t that the whole point of Twitter? To apply the 140 character limit, you know? Twitter brought microblogging to the masses and is now – strategically – diverging away from providing the simple joy and purity of 140 character missives.

And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Applications such as TweetDeck, HootSuite, Hibari et al have taken the initial premise of Twitter and extended it to include lots of other features and Twitter may well be learning a few lessons and bringing some of those features in-house. For instance, one can view YouTube videos or Flickr images linked from Twitter within TweetDeck. Twitter is clearly moving to allow users to view content derived from other websites within the Twitter website instead of losing viewing time to those other websites.

If users are viewing content from other websites directly on Twitter rather than chasing links to content on those other sites, user eyeballs will be pointed at the Twitter site for longer. The Twitter management team are betting this will pay off in terms of an exit strategy for the investors who have funnelled huge amounts of cash into Twitter in hopes of gaining a “ridiculously large sum” at some point in the future.

So. Old Twitter is fading away. Gradually being evolved out of existence with each successive user who is upgraded. It’s not what we signed up for, but it is a thoughtful adaptation in the face of an encroaching set of nimble applications.

Will The New Twitter succeed? Probably, it sure can’t afford to ignore the call to adapt or die. But that doesn’t mean that some users – myself included – will not appreciate the clear shift away from what was an amazingly refreshing and minimalist approach. In striving for constant re-invention it just seems like we will be losing a big part of the initial vision that brought Twitter into being. Sometimes, less really is more.

If you haven’t yet been upgraded to The New Twitter, take a look at the video below.

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