A senior Twitter engineer broke the news — how else? — in a tweet. The social media site’s search and discovery functions are set to “change forever” on July 7, he wrote at 3:27am this morning (Paris time).
The author of the post, Pankaj Gupta, is the leader of Personalization and Recommender Systems at Twitter, according to his profile. While Twitter has yet to make an official statement, Gupta’s tweet builds our expectations with its reference to the “enormity” of his staff’s impact, which “few understand today!”
Speculation has it that this is another step toward competing directly with Flipboard, a social aggregator that curates material from across the web for each of its users based on cues from their social media accounts (and relies on Twitter feeds for 70 percent of its content, according to AllThingsD).
“Odds are pretty good that Twitter is rolling out improvements that use social signals based on the accounts users follow to deliver smarter search results and related tweets and accounts,” predicted Business Insider’s Owen Thomas a few hours ago.
Search and discovery are integral parts of the microblogger’s ability to make use of the heaps of data it generates (from more than 340 million tweets per day). It is criticized for its limited search function, which does not allow you to search through a user’s tweets. Last December, it introduced the Discover tab, which allows users to see curated tweets from people they do not follow, and which it has continued to refine.
On May 1, Twitter’s Vice President of Product Satya Patel posted on the Twitter blog: “Starting today, the Discover tab will begin to surface content that is even more personalized and meaningful to you. We’ve incorporated additional personalization signals to select Discover stories, including Tweets that are popular among the people you follow and the folks they follow,” pointed out Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson.
Increasing overlap between Flipboard and Twitter may have contributed to Flipboard co-founder Mike McCue’s decision to step down from Twitter’s board a week later, Carlson reported. Twitter’s recent purchase of Summify and other companies designed to help users discover content further fueled rumours that the two were heading for greater rivalry, as Kara Swisher of AllThingsD noted at the time.
In mid-June, Editors Weblog reported that developments such as the hiring of the Washington Post’s former social media editor Mark S. Luckie to serve as a liaison with the journalism community, meanwhile, were strengthening Twitter’s resemblance to a media company.
The last thing Twitter did to catch our attention was to introduce tailored trends, which are supposed to allow users to customize trending topics based on their interests. This “improvement” was met with little success (The Next Web’s Drew Olanoff, for example, is not a fan). Here’s hoping that tomorrow’s search and discover overhaul exceeds our expectations, keeping Flipboard on its toes. We’ll keep you posted.
Image from Twitter @pankaj