Over the years, Twitter remained quite similar. One of its most memorable product updates came in 2017 when it doubled down on the number of possible characters to fit a tweet.
But in recent months, the company has signaled a change, with plans for an audio chat service, a platform for newsletters, ephemeral content, and new moderation tools helping everyone else. people have more control over their chats.
On Thursday, Twitter went a step further, announcing ambitious plans to expand with new subscription options and communities for specific interests.
Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s head of consumer products, said in a recent interview: “The concept of Twitter is even changing feels like a novel concept. “It is still a long way from reaching its potential, no matter how influential and valuable it is in the world.”
Twitter’s heart, which was born in 2006, is still tweets. But the company urgently wants to attract more users – more users – and impress skeptical investors while not placing a heavy burden on its services with cumbersome features that seem deceiving. think later.
Although Twitter was at the center of last year’s volatile presidential election and continues to have a major influence in the political and media circles, younger social media peers TikTok, Snapchat and Clubhouse have grown a lot faster.
Snapchat currently has 265 million daily active users, more than Twitter’s 192 million. TikTok, which was widely used in the United States in 2018 and does not regularly publish usage figures, said last fall that it had around 50 million daily active users in the United States. And the 11-month-old Clubhouse already has 10 million users.
Over the next three years, Twitter wants to increase the number of daily active users by at least 64%, to 315 million people; the speed at which it launches new features to the public; and at least double its annual revenue, Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, said Thursday at an event for industry analysts and investors.
Twitter executives and employees say the change is out of date. “There are three criticisms: we are slow, we are not innovating, and we are not trusted,” said Mr. Dorsey.
Mr. Dorsey has been promoting the company in recent years expanding its mission in addition to 280 character chats and organize wider discussions.
But Twitter has long resisted change. The leadership of the company’s product development team is constantly changing, and the little tweaks Twitter has made are often ridiculed by users. After taking on product development work in 2018, Mr. Beykpour often jokes that he, like the product leaders before him, could end up with tight work.
Last year, Elliott Management, a hedge fund, quietly amassed a 4% stake in the company and then tried to overthrow Mr. Dorsey, arguing he was not focused enough on creating innovative new products. at Twitter because he also oversees finance company Square. .
Twitter has made a deal with Elliott Management to retain Mr. Dorsey. But this episode brought the company into an acquisition. It has attracted a mobile advertising agency, a social video app, a podcasting company, a design agency and a newsletter provider.
“We have bought nearly 20 companies for hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years,” Ned Segal, Twitter’s chief financial officer, said in an interview earlier this month. “I think our M&A speed matches the pace of innovation within the company. We are moving faster ”.
Twitter also adds a host of features, including ephemeral stories nicknamed “the fleet”, censorship tools that help users limit who can reply to their tweets and chats. Live sounds are called Spaces.
It also revamped its network, largely built in the early days of Twitter, before modern cloud services were widely available. The company is also testing subscription products, like newsletters, that will help creators make money on Twitter.
Esther Crawford, a senior product manager at Twitter said: “That’s what Twitter is about now: There are a lot of different things that Twitter is willing to try. Ms. Crawford co-founded the social video app Squad, acquired by Twitter in December. “People are really in this exciting moment around testing that we’re doing.”
On Thursday, Twitter introduced new features, like community groups and “Super Follows” that let users subscribe to exclusive content from other tweets. The company also said it will hire engineering teams in areas where it plans to develop, such as India and Africa.
Some of Twitter’s latest features aren’t available to all users, so it’s difficult to quantify their impact. But the company’s audience is growing. Twitter said it added more daily active users in January compared with the previous January 4 average. And Twitter’s shares are higher than in previous years and up more than 100% from a year ago.
Last week, several Twitter designers held Space to debate what the app would look like. About 30 users listened to what, before the pandemic, could be a brainstorming session in a conference room at Twitter headquarters. On Wednesday, a group of Twitter engineers responsible for building the company’s Android app held another open-ended meeting.
“When you work in public, you work faster because you are accountable to the people you are interacting with,” Ms. Crawford said.
But some analysts still doubt that all of Twitter’s experiments will make the competition reel.
Jessica Liu, senior analyst at Forrester, said in an interview earlier this month: “They tried all of these tests and it felt like a lot of small pieces didn’t necessarily accumulate into app experiences. Greater engagement or social networking experience ”. . “I just wanted to understand from their senior leadership what is the long-term vision for Twitter?”