Twitter upgraded with full-fledged photo galleries

Ronny Kerr · August 23, 2011 · Short URL:

See a user's photos at a glance, explore their collection in an expanded gallery and get up close

Any dual Instagram-Twitter fiends should be celebrating today, as their photos now have a much better home on the microblogging site.

Twitter started rolling out a new feature on Monday that aggregates photos users have uploaded into more easy-to-see galleries. The galleries come in three flavors.

The first gallery, “User Galleries Profile View” (embedded at bottom of article), is simply a small four-photo sampler found on the user profile right-hand sidebar. Clicking “view all” opens the “User Galleries Grid View” (above), which all at once shows off a greater array of photos uploaded by the user. Finally, clicking any photo in the grid summons the “User Galleries Detail View” (below), bringing the photo into greater focus while allowing for quick navigation to other images in the gallery.

Galleries max out at the 100 most recent uploaded photos and video thumbnails will not be included. Also, due to technical limitations, images attached to tweets sent before January 1, 2010 will not be displayed. Also, deleting a tweet with an attached image will delete the image’s thumbnail from the gallery, but the image will remain online at yFrog or TwitPic, if either provider is used to host the image.

Twitter first publicly announced that it was bringing greater photo tools to the site in early June, though image uploading didn’t fully roll out until this month. The soon-to-be-rolled-out photo galleries also likely played an important role in the automatic upgrading of users to #NewTwitter.

Based on my own testing, the galleries feel nice and fluid. They add an important rich media touch to the microblogging platform, without hindering the site’s focus on the stream and without slowing down the service.

Additionally, the spartan experience of the gallery at this stage, with no photo album capabilities or anything of the like, ensure that Twitter isn’t trying to compete with Facebook or photo sites. Rather, it merely wants to supplement tweets with extra content, while keeping things relevant.

It’s a welcome 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.