Twitter debuts Project Lightening, now called 'Moments'

Steven Loeb · October 6, 2015 · Short URL:

With Moments, Twitter is handing its users the best content it has, but is that enough to save it?

I've always been somewhat amused by the rise of the "here's what Twitter is saying!" stories that now pass as news. I mean, it's the laziest form of "journalism" possible. But, hey, I admit to doing stories like that every once in a while too, though never about anything serious.

So I can tell you that jumping in and trying to find the best Tweets to show off is a giant pain. There are so many of them, not to mention it means having to find the right hashtag to see what was happening (is it #Oscar2015 or #2015Oscars?). It can be intimidating for the uninitiated and Twitter knows this. It's part of the reason why it has had such a hard time with user growth in recent years.

The solution is to do the work for them, by curating the best Tweets for its users, and make them easy to both find and follow. That is why the company has now introduced Moments, a new feature that is designed to curate content by aggregating Tweets and photos from live events and breaking-news situations.

"Every day, people share hundreds of millions of Tweets. Among them are things you can’t experience anywhere but on Twitter: conversations between world leaders and celebrities, citizens reporting events as they happen, cultural memes, live commentary on the night’s big game, and many more," Madhu Muthukumar, product manager at Twitter, wrote in a blog post.

"We know finding these only-on-Twitter moments can be a challenge, especially if you haven’t followed certain accounts. But it doesn’t have to be."

Here is how Moments, previously known as "Project Lightning," works: when Twitter app users see a lightning bolt icon next to their notifications and messages, they will be able to click on and open up a list of curated content that will be continuously updated throughout the day.

Content will not just be Tweets, but also "immersive full-bleed images and autoplaying videos, Vines, and GIFs." It's a more interactive way of getting people to be engaged with content.

Users are also given the ability to follow that Moment, so they can get up to the minute updates. If you're unable to watch the Super Bowl, for example, this is a good way to keep up with what's happening in almost real-time.

So who gets to decide what makes it into a Moment and what doesn't? They will be assembled by Twitter's curation team, while some of Twitter's media partners, including Bleacher Report, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Fox News, Getty Images, Mashable, MLB, NASA, New York Times, Vogue and the Washington Post, will also make their own.

Moments is an extremely important step for Twitter. It may be the company's last, best effort to finally find a way to hook in new users. What else can it do but make it as easy as possible to find the very best content it has to offer?

The feature is so important after it was it was announced that Jack Dorsey had been named as Twitter's permanent CEO on Monday, he mentioned Project Lightning a total of six times in a conference call.

"The team is moving with a level of boldness I haven't seen before," he said. "I can't wait for the world to see what's coming, Project Lightening included, but also some of the bolder ideas that the team have to make Twitter an easier place to both create and consume content."

Twitter is a nine year old company. It's publicly traded and deeply embedded. Now the company will see if there is any hope of getting the uninitiated to finally come on board, or if that train has already left the station.

Moments are being introduced in the US across Android, iPhone, and the desktop Web, with more locations getting them in the coming weeks and months.

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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.