Jack Dorsey’s return to Twitter was certainly accompanied by plenty of questions, but the new Executive Chairman also sought to provide some answers, speaking at Columbia University – though not necessarily the answers to some of those questions.
He did speak about his vision for Twitter going forward, and it basically boils down to getting all the people out there who don’t “get” Twitter to start “getting” it, while also communicating better with Developers, and respecting them as a collective major component in driving the future success of the company (and to get them to start making more important stuff than new clients).
It’s no secret that Twitter’s relationship with developers has been a bit turbulent lately. Dorsey appears to be simultaneously praising developers for being a driving force, while making it clear that Twitter itself has to offer more (which means there is bound to be more overlap between what developers are creating and features that Twitter adds itself.
These two objectives – playing well with developers and improving the mainstream appeal of Twitter – may be a tough balancing act. Much of Twitter’s usefulness for some of its most hardcore users actually comes from third-party developers or is at least drastically improved by them. Meanwhile, to get the average “newbie” to “get” Twitter, they’re going to have to discover some of the same use cases that these third-party app-using hardcore users have discovered.
This means, Twitter will most likely look to improve its own user experience in ways that the developers have been able to do. To some extent, Twitter has already done this in various ways. A third-party – Summize – did Twitter search. Eventually, Twitter just bought Summize, and it simply became Twitter Search. Other developers made clients like Seesmic and TweetDeck for the desktop and mobile devices. Now Twitter has greatly improved the Twitter.com experience and added its own mobile apps.
These third-party apps still have their place, provide various features that still aren’t necessarily part of Twitter’s own UI, and continue to have loyal users, but they’re becoming less crucial for the new user to download, in order to appreciate Twitter as a service. That’s good for Twitter, and not quite as great for the developers. So it seems only natural that Twitter will continue to look at the developer ecosystem for ideas that it can use to improve its own service. If an app truly makes Twitter more relevant to a large number of people, maybe it’s worth just adding that app’s functionality to the core Twitter experience, so everyone can enjoy it, whether they know about the app or not.
Dorsey is quoted as saying in his talk, that the biggest challenge is to build a cohesive user experience, and talked about TweetDeck specifically: “TweetDeck is a very interesting client, because it presents a view that no other client in the world presents, which is this multicolumn, massive amounts of information in one pane. And people really, really enjoy that. But I think that’s maybe five percent of the Twitter population. That five percent of the Twitter population are some of the most high-value publishers that we have, and they’re using the service at extreme velocity. So of course we have to pay attention to that, and I’m not saying we need to rid ourselves of interfaces like that. We have to embrace them.”
“But, we also need to speak to the 80 percent that will not be using an interface like that, that don’t really understand what Twitter is and that see Twitter mainly as a consumption experience.”
He also says they’ll solve the challenge of filtering massive amounts of Tweets and making it harder to miss the tweets that are most relevant to you. It will be interesting to see how they go about tackling that.