The bird's subdued new blue is not all that's changed on Twitter this summer.
There is no use in pretending it's breaking news, since there’s a good chance you’ve already retweeted it: about 19 hours ago, Mobile Product Manager Sung Hu Kim (@sunghu) announced that Twitter had updated its apps for iOS and Android.
Combined with the changes to search and discovery announced Friday, these updates signal a new phase in the social media site’s evolving role in the way we report and consume news.
The new features and their ramifications for breakers and followers of news are as follows:
Quicker reviewers have touted this as the most noteworthy aspect of the update: now mobile Twitter users can opt to receive push notifications on their phones from selected accounts, as well as notifications on actions like mentions and retweets while they are inside the app.
As third-party client Tweetbot was already offering the first of these services, and the second is an added bonus, digital commentators pointed out that this looks like a move to give the "official" Twitter experience a competitive edge over those offered by coattail-riding clients. Given Twitter’s recent move to prevent outright mimicry by sliding the API status from open to ajar, it is fair to assume that “this is a signal that Twitter is taking charge of its official applications,” as Mike Isaac wrote for AllThingsD.
News consumers can use this feature to their advantage to seek even more instantaneous access to the information they care about, and it gives news providers the opportunity to interrupt followers (those who like them enough to give them push powers) with pings and vibrations while they work, eat and sleep.
Unrolled for the web in June, the expanded tweet function allows users to watch videos, view photos and read article summaries from partnering news sources without leaving Twitter. In the mobile version, tapping on a tweet now expands it to let users access multimedia content and news briefs from inside the app.
This involves closer collaboration with media companies and other providers of online content: yesterday Twitter announced partnerships with the likes of C-SPAN, The Atlantic, Kickstarter and Vimeo, adding to those unveiled in June, which included The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and Der Spiegel Online. This function is rolling out gradually, and Twitter is expected to announce more alliances in coming weeks.
From a business standpoint, this is a “clever way to keep people in-app,” noted Mat Honan for Wired. From a news consumer’s standpoint, it signals a predicted move toward more of a Flipboard-like experience, with Twitter newsfeeds serving less as semi-blind jumping-off points into the world wide web, and more as here’s-the-gist, take-it-or-leave-it aggregators.
Live event coverage
“Now, Twitter for iPhone complements any live event, whether you’re watching from home or from the stands,” boasts the Twitter blog, adding that it is zooming ahead with its experimental collaboration with NASCAR (to be sampled on Sunday). This increased emphasis on being the go-to place for live event coverage further fuels speculation that, at least where live events are concerned, the service is behaving more and more like a news provider, and pushing the editorial middleman toward the curb.
This does not have to be a frightening prospect: whether your news outlet’s guy or gal is on the ground tweeting with the best of them or live-blogging from the newsroom (or newsmobile), this will simply mean that his or her voice will have to be good to rise through Twitter’s meritocratic cacophony.
Twitter also brought search search autocomplete, one of Friday’s search and discovery improvements on the web platform, to the mobile apps, meaning that when you aren’t entirely sure which #hashtag or @user you’re looking for, Twitter helps you out by taking an educated guess.
Friday’s changes to web-based Twitter also included automatic spelling corrections, related search suggestions and the ability to narrow search results to the Tweets of people you follow. These updates led Venture Beat’s Jolie O'Dell to make the following observation:
“The crux of the matter is simple: Around half of Twitter users are using the service as a supersimplified RSS reader, not as a mechanism for broadcasting their own thoughts to an uncaring world. Since the company wants to grow — and wants to continue to grow more mainstream — it’s in its best interests to make Twitter the simplest, best RSS reader anyone could ask for.”
And that’s only part of the story. Five years after its launch, Twitter’s role in the news cycle continues to develop. As with any evolving narrative, however, flashy breaking-news updates make little sense without a solid grasp of the context in which the new events are taking place. If you trade in news and are still not sure what Twitter can do for you, consider following Steve Buttry’s serialized guide on using Twitter as a reporter, which he launched on July 9th with a handy guide to mastering advanced search.
Image Credit: Still from the following Twitter bird makeover video via The Next Web