Revamped Twitter.com site takes flight

Twitter goes after Facebook, third-party apps with embedded pics and video, threaded replies and tweet drill-downs (see video, below)

In an effort to refresh the Twitter.com site, pull users back in from third-party platforms -- and take a swipe at Facebook -- Twitter launched a significant site redesign on Tuesday.

The new Twitter.com
The new Twitter.com. (See video, below.)

The new home page, which still has a distinctive Twitter feel about it, has quite a different look and a bunch of new features. While tweets are still shown on the left of the page, there's an expanded sidebar on the right with new features like maps of geo-location tagged tweets and embedded pictures and videos.

Users can now click on tweets to drill down into them for more information. And if a user replies to a tweet, it will show up under the original tweet Twitter CEO and co-founder Evan Williams told a roomful of journalists at the social networking company's San Francisco offices on Tuesday.

"It's about a faster, easier, richer experience -- a better way to discover what's in your world," Williams said during the press conference. "We want people to get more out of it in less time."

The launch of the redesigned site began rolling out in the U.S. Tuesday evening Eastern time. It will be an incremental rollout in the U.S., and then around the world.

"This redesign could make [the site] more robust and able to survive competitive challenges," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "But Twitter was known for its simplicity and messing with that has its risks."

Before Twitter's press conference was even finished, the Internet was abuzz with people wondering how this move would affect third-party Twitter platforms like the popular TweetDeck and HootSuite. If Twitter.com is suddenly more compelling and fun to use, will users still go to a third-party for their tweeting needs?

Maybe not, said Enderle. "This will allow users to do more in Twitter," he noted. "And if this works, it will make third-party sites less popular, but only if this works."

And what about Facebook, another extremely popular social networking site that is competing with Twitter for users' time and attention? With embedded pictures and video, suddenly Twitter is moving into Facebook's traditional territory.

"I think the realization is that [Twitter] could be a one-stop service for people who want a complete experience," said Enderle. "Twitter is clearly targeting Facebook... but people are creatures of habit and it's very difficult to move them from a service they like. Facebook is likely stickier than Twitter."

Twitter introduced the new Twitter.com on Tuesday with this video. Click arrow button to play video. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers may require two clicks to start the video.)

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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