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It’s hard to believe, but Twitter has already been around more than a decade now. And in that time, it has changed remarkably little. Sure, there may have been changes to the positioning of the search bar or the appearance of profiles, or a few little tweaks into how content appears in your Twitter feed, but the overall experience is still much the same as it has always been. That’s why a much-touted Twitter redesign, which first rolled out in early 2019, has attracted so much attention. Is Twitter going to fundamentally change what it does, and how it is used?
Twitter’s identity crisis
That’s a natural question to ask, given how often Twitter seems to experience existential angst about what it is, and why it even exists in the first place. Is it a communication platform for friends, a giant community to find like-minded users, a 24/7 breaking news platform, a place to find new trends and memes, or a new platform for video entertainment? At various times, Twitter has claimed to be all of these things, and more. It’s no wonder people sometimes get so frustrated with Twitter: of all the most popular social media platforms, Twitter seems to be the one with the perpetual identity crisis.
At the same time, Twitter has been rocked by controversy over just how “toxic” it has become for users. Online cyber bullying is rampant on Twitter, and it is remarkable how nasty Twitter can get, especially when it comes to politics. Some days, it feels like Twitter is a festering hot mess of hate and harassment. And now Twitter seems to be locked in some sort of feud with the Trump administration, in which Twitter is being asked a lot of questions about why free speech is unwelcome, and why any views that do not coincide with those of the platform’s founders are hidden from sight (some might even say “censored”).
Designing a nicer, kinder Twitter
So one goal of the Twitter redesign is to introduce a nicer, kinder social media platform. The idea is to use subtle design tweaks to nudge people to discover what makes Twitter great – such as all the various communities of users who come to Twitter specifically to follow their favorite celebrities or athletes.
Another goal of the Twitter redesign is to get more people creating content. Most people, right now, are just passive consumers of content. So a few design tweaks – such as moving the search box right next to trending topics – might encourage people to create more content. So will the new Twitter bookmarks, which will enable people to save their tweets for later.
The future of Twitter
At the end of the day, however, it’s naïve to think that a few design tweaks will fundamentally change what happens on Twitter. A few of the really big changes that might make a difference to users – such as an EDIT button for tweets – are not in the mix right now. The new Twitter looks cleaner, simpler, less cluttered and more modern – but these are just incremental changes, and not signs that the Twitter bird has finally joined a new flock.