Twitter Discusses Coming Features, Including Topic-Based Streams and Searchable DMs

Twitter Discusses Coming Features, Including Topic-Based Streams and Searchable DMs


As Twitter continues roll out new tweaks and updates designed to boost usage, the platform is also looking at some larger-scale initiatives designed to help users – particularly new ones – find more relevant tweet content.

This week, at a press event at Twitter HQ in San Francisco, Twitter’s product team discussed several projects, the biggest of which being topic-based streams, which would enable Twitter users to stay up to date on specific subjects via curated listings.

Here are the key elements Twitter’s team discussed – and if you’re looking for a blow-by-blow rundown, this tweet thread of the event by Wired journalist Arielle Pardes is also helpful:

1. Topic Lists

If you’re looking to use Twitter to stay up to date with the latest on a specific subject, this new feature – currently in test mode – will facilitate such.

Twitter is looking to enable a new swipeable format which would showcase curated tweets based on a chosen interest – like ‘basketball’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Politics’ etc. Twitter’s curation team will essentially build Twitter lists of key accounts to follow for each subject, and will then curate those streams to ensure the streams remain relevant to the focus topic.

It sounds a lot like an extension of the swipeable lists feature Twitter began testing recently, though more specifically curated to chosen topics.

Customizable timelines that are easy to access? We’re thinking about ways to do this! One idea we had is for you to be able to swipe to your lists from home. If you’re in the test tell us what you think!

— Twitter (@Twitter) June 25, 2019

At this stage, the lists are only being tested with a small group, and as noted, involve specific curation. But if Twitter wants to scale this experience, you would expect that it would need to utilize an algorithm at some stage. It’s too early to get much on at this point, but it could help users find more relevant content – the challenge will be in expanding the program while avoiding spam/controversial content.  

2. Subscribing to Conversations

As we reported recently, Twitter is also working on a new option which would enable users to sign-up to be notified of replies to specific tweets.

You probably have notifications on for your must-follows. Now you can get notifications when there’s a new reply to a Tweet you’re interested in! We’re testing this on iOS and Android now.

— Twitter (@Twitter) August 8, 2019

That option is currently only in early test phase, but it looks set to see a broader roll-out shortly.

3. Re-Order Attached Images

Twitter has also confirmed that it’s developing the capacity to drag and re-order images attached to a tweet, which was first spotted in testing last month.

It’s a simple, yet helpful addition, which should also be coming soon.

4. Support for Live Photos

Twitter is also looking to add support for Live Photos captured via iPhone.

Live photos record what happens 1.5 seconds before and after you take a picture, providing you with an active clip, as opposed to a basic still image. Live photos in tweets would enable you to add another element to your attached images – though they could also become a source of contention if you weren’t aware you captured and/or uploaded a live photo.

Worth checking your image capture settings ahead of time. 

5. DM Search

Twitter also confirmed that it’s working on a DM search feature, the first stage of which was spotted in the back-end of the app last week.

In addition to these updates, Twitter also detailed its ongoing work on improving user safety, and in particular, how it can provide more insight into content removal decisions.

Is there a way for Twitter to be more transparent about how it came to certain decisions on certain high-profile decisions—like removing (or not removing) a controversial tweet? Yes, says @delbius, and that’s the only way forward.

— Arielle Pardes (@pardesoteric) August 13, 2019

Twitter also touched on the potential of ephemeral tweets – an area its interested in – while there was also some discussion of the potential for an edit button.

Bad news, I’m afraid.

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: We’re talking about the edit button! @kayvz‘s honest answer: “It’s a feature we should probably build at some point, but it’s not at the top of our priority list.”

— Arielle Pardes (@pardesoteric) August 13, 2019

So probably no edit option coming soon. That won’t stop people calling for it – in fact, if Twitter were to add an edit button, I think a lot of users would be left lost, unsure of what to discuss. But even without an edit option, there’s a lot of interesting, smaller changes coming to the platform in the near future.   

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