Twitter upgrades Followers/Following pages

Ronny Kerr · July 1, 2009 · Short URL:

Drop-down menus resemble Facebook menus without subtlety of design

Announced in a brief blog post yesterday, Twitter has updated its site with a fresh design that fleshes out the kinds of actions users can take on their Followers or Following pages.

The pages can now be viewed in either “Expanded” or “List” mode. “List” is just that, a list of user names alongside real names, whereas “Expanded” shows user location and latest tweet.

In the new drop-down menu (to the right of user names), users can choose from a few courses of action. The most common options are “Mention” (which prepares a new tweet mentioning whatever user), “Unfollow,” and “Block.” For mutual followers, users can choose to send a “Direct Message.”newMenu

Though a simple user interface upgrade, the new design shows us that Twitter is trying to grant its users more capabilities and quicker courses of action, while keeping the site as simple as the question, “What are you doing?”

The social media startup might be able to learn a thing or two from Facebook, whose currently feature-packed pages evolved from years of offering users various avenues to personalization and privacy, all in an easy-to-use Web site. Drop-down menus on Facebook’s site that enable users to remove certain stories from the news feeds, for example, do not actually appear until the mouse rolls over the story.

These kinds of design innovations, simple in theory, add to the feel of a Web site tremendously in the long run.

Though Twitter has been experiencing increasing spells of popularity over the past few months, Facebook has been building its massive user base for many years now. As these small aesthetic similarities reveal, in tandem with more significant software comparisons, the two sites may be competing for the same market in the very near future. These are, at the core, Web sites devoted to connecting people through the ordinary workings of their lives.

But that's looking far ahead. For now, Twitter users will just enjoy the site's efficient upgrade.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.