Twitter hones its home page for the curious

Ronny Kerr · March 30, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/eb4
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Always trying to demonstrate its value to the uninitiated, Twitter to post more content on home page

Twitter announced today more tweaks will be coming to its traditionally sparse home page, in an effort to make it more dynamic and interesting, especially for non-Twitter users.

new Twitter home page

Dead center on the new page being tested is a real-time feed of "algorithmically-selected top tweets" intended to present a slice of what people talk about on Twitter and who's doing the talking. As always, users can look to the horizontal bar of trending topics just below the search box to get a big picture of the current discussion on the microblogging site.

To the left of the top tweets feed is a "random" sampling of people using Twitter--celebrities, businesses, and maybe even ordinary users.

With the new changes, however, Twitter is declaring that it is not simply a microblogging site, but rather a complex for discussion and, more and more, an accurate indicator of the Web's pulse:

"All of our recent changes embrace the notion that Twitter is not just for status updates anymore. It's a network where information is exchanged and consumed at a rapid clip every second of the day," writes Doug Bowman, Creative Director at Twitter. "With so much being shared, we know that there's something of value for everyone. People who internalize the value of Twitter understand the power of this simple medium. But it hasn't been easy to make that value transparent or obvious for curious folks coming to Twitter for the first time."

Still being tested, the new home page is not live for everybody yet. Twitter will be monitoring it to see what works and what doesn't and can be expected to continually tweak various aspects of the page.

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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 Twitter.com, 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 Twitter.com, 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 Virginamerica.com 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.