Since 2006, I have spent a lot of time with Twitter, on Twitter, writing about Twitter, and building for Twitter. After this election cycle, I believe it is worth addressing the need for critical changes.
Twitter is an indispensable global information network that has been in existence for ten years. Twitter’s evolution has been haphazard: at times driven by users, at times driven by competitive pressure, and at times driven by business needs.
To preserve the brand, the safety of users, and to bring more people into the service, several changes are needed immediately.
1) Twitter needs to make abundantly clear that:
a) The platform is available for anyone to post whatever they would like in accordance with community guidelines and legal constraints.
b) Users have absolutely no entitlement to exposure or promotion beyond the circle of users who are following that user.
2) Retweets (with or without comment) should be the exclusive mechanism to expose a post to another network of users.
3) The @reply and @mention should all be scoped by the rules above and only visible to people who follow you. Period, no one else.
4) Search should reveal results of people you follow (including retweets) and verified users. Period, no one else.
5) Twitter should change the UI to be much more “slack-like.” Content with hashtags should live only in channels for that hashtag. Content with no hashtag should live in a general channel. Posts in a channel stick in that channel and each channel should have:
a) Primary view showing posts from only people you follow (and retweets).
b) Expanded view that includes verified users (and retweets) and editorially selected users.
c) Some sort of pinned header (e.g live video feed, most important post, etc.)
Moments/Trending needs to be repurposed into a single algorithmic and editorial driven ontology of what 80% of people should connect with in the moment. Each item in that list (searching topics) should be a channel.
The primary UI should report on what channel your followers are engaging.
Some additional thoughts:
These changes will alter Twitter but I believe the tradeoffs will be a huge net positive.
Twitter has been a cherished brand since its inception and that is being steadily eroded. 1–2 negative interactions immediately destroy brand equity. Fixing this strikes me as a mission critical business decision even if it impacts revenue in the short term.
Twitter has been ascendant for content creation (both in volume and authority of creator). It is time to aggressively restrict and filter on that content to create the best possible experience.
Twitter is not a novelty platform like it was for the first 5 years. For consumption, users need to have up to 3 needs met:
- Exposure to an authoritative set of voices on a topic
- Ability to discuss a topic with people they are connected to
- Exposure to what is happening at the moment
Twitter can ensure that you are getting the best information and connecting with only the people you trust.
By doing that it will be the dominant consumer service for what is happening in the moment.
It will be the go to second screen for a billion people looking to connect around media and information (e.g. anything from a basketball game to the current Westworld episode to a breaking news event) and perpetually top of mind.
If any of this is unclear, I am happy to follow up in the Responses below.