The pioneer of the 140-character text update is rolling out a new image-centric Web profile page for users that bears a striking similarity to those of a certain other social network.
The first thing you’ll notice is a huge new header image that extends across the top of your profile page, along with a missing background image. You can change your theme color by selecting “Edit profile,” but the background will remain uniformly gray.
Less obvious at first glance are a few new features—best tweets, pinned tweets and filtered tweets. Tweets that have more retweets, favorites or replies will appear slightly larger in your timeline. You can show off your favorite tweet by “pinning” it to the top of your page where it won’t get lost among your stream. Filtered tweets let you choose how to view other people’s tweets, photos, or @-replies.
Viewing photos, tweets or followers no longer shows you just lists, but rather large Twitter cards that emphasize visual elements such as a profile photo or embedded album—similar to a Facebook post.
An Over Simplification
The changes are a big bow by Twitter to the Visual Web, the trend toward more picture-focused websites, apps and social networks. Twitter’s roots, of course, extend deep into the pre-Visual Web; its iconic short text messages gave rise to a unique social culture that evolved shorthand features such as hashtags and retweets—features that can be off-putting to new users.
See also: The Triumph Of The Visual Web
In a blog post today, Twitter described the new timelines as “an easier way to express yourself.” Easier being the keyword.
The company has struggled to appeal to new people and keep the users it has, largely because Twitter itself is complicated. Most people are accustomed to Facebook and comfortable in that environment, so Twitter is taking a page from Facebook, literally, in an effort to attract, and retain, more users.
Twitter has also reportedly toyed with the idea of eliminating hashtags and @-replies, two major (and beloved) features of the social network that new users have a hard time understanding. It recently introduced tweet albums and photo tagging features that made timelines a lot more Facebook-like, and the new profile pages is just more evidence of the “Facebookification” of the social network.
For now, the change only affects user profiles, not your timeline; you’ll still see real-time updates from people you follow. But it’s likely we’ll begin to see more changes that emphasize simplicity creep into our timelines and profiles. Twitter wall, anyone?
The new profiles are available to a small number of users today, and rolling out to everyone in the coming weeks.
Lead image courtesy of Twitter