After years of criticism for its perceived failure to evolve its platform, and take action on key elements fast enough, Twitter says that it's now "picking up the pace” of innovation, and looking to implement more changes and options to help improve the overall Twitter experience.
We've already seen some of these in its updates to lists and the addition of topics to follow, and there are more on the way, with controls over who can reply to your tweets and it's long-awaited 'conversational' features. But these are just some of the elements that Twitter's working on - according to new reports, Twitter is also looking into a new tipping option for tweets, improved identification of trolls, tweaks for lists, and more.
Here's an overview of some of the additional Twitter updates we may see in the near future.
1. Tipping in Tweets
With Facebook moving further into on-platform payments, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's enthusiasm for cryptocurrency, it may come as little surprise that Twitter too is looking at its own payment option, with tipping via tweet.
As reported by The Information:
"Twitter is considering a feature that will allow users to tip - sending each other money from their tweets - according to two people familiar with the company’s decisions. [...] Twitter and Square already partner to let users make donations to politicians through tweets, according to company filings."
There's a lot to consider here - the capacity to exchange money via tweet could have significant implications for the service, and may provide a whole new revenue stream to popular tweet creators.
Or not. The key strength of Twitter is the capacity to be able to contribute to public discourse, to have your say on any given topic and add that into the wider Twitter stream. If you were able to charge people to see your tweets - which is not currently the proposal, but maybe an extension of the same - that would also, theoretically, reduce your exposure, which may negate its value anyway.
But still, no doubt those who share scoops and exclusive insights on Twitter will be doing the math in their heads, calculating what, exactly, their tweets are worth. The truth is, probably not much - but maybe, if they could call for contributions from their loyal fans, it could provide another incremental income stream, if the option were to go that route.
More likely the option would be a boon for those sharing adult content on the platform - but still, the capacity to raise funds via tweet would open up a range of possibilities. And worth noting, YouTube recently reported that more than 100,000 of its channels are now earning money via its live-stream tipping option, called 'Super Chat', with some streams generating more than $400 per minute "as fans reach out to creators to say hello, send congratulations, or just to connect".
The use case is obviously different, but it may provide some pointers as to where Twitter is looking on this front.
It's also worth noting that various Twitter employees have said that, while this has been discussed, such a project is not actively in development at this stage.
2. Disincentives for Trolls
In a recent interview at CES, Twitter's head of product Kayvon Beykpour gave an overview of where the company is at, where it's looking, and what his key priorities are in the role.
One of the more interesting notes within that chat was Beykpour's thoughts on trolls, and reducing the incentive for anti-social behavior in the app.
"Some prominent incentives that we have: the follower counts, the likes, the retweet, impressions. These mechanics all tend to incentivize content that gets a lot of reach and popularity. And sometimes outrage can get popularity and reach. [...] Oftentimes, unhealthy content can get viral more easily precisely because of those mechanics. So one of the things we've been thinking about is whether we have the right balance of incentives within the core product experience. Putting our rules aside for a moment, just as an example, there isn't really a disincentive today to being a total jerk on Twitter. And that's a product problem."
To address this, Beykpour noted that there may be a way to disincentivize such behavior through a rating system, similar to those in use by ride-share services.
"If you think about a service like Lyft or Uber, there is a disincentive to be a total jerk. As a passenger, I have a passenger rating. As a driver, I have a driver rating. And there's an understanding within the marketplace that if you behave a certain way, that your reputation will be impacted in a way that can have adverse consequences."
Beykpour didn't necessarily suggest that a similar rating system would work on Twitter, but a 'troll score', which would delineate users based on their past activity, is something that Twitter is considering, at least in some form.
That would be an interesting experiment, though likely not a workable one. If users were tagged with a profile marker signaling their behavior in the app, you can only imagine that would incentivize others to use Twitter's reporting options as a weapon to limit dissenting expression, which, in itself, could be a form of abuse and control, likely even more so than the existing systems.
There's already much disagreement within the Twitter community in relation to bans and reporting, with users feeling unfairly targeted. A system where this has more significant consequences would likely see a huge uptick in such reports, meaning more work for Twitter's moderation team, and more dissatisfied Twitter users, who'd likely just drift off to other corners of the internet instead.
But still, it's an interesting area, and Beykpour's right, the current systems on social media do incentivize engagement over all else, which has already lead to increased societal division as a result.
Maybe removing Likes, as Instagram has done, is a step in the right direction, limiting replies, as Twitter is experimenting with, removing the means with which people can gain validation from the same. But the fact is that controversy works, and it'll be difficult to implement a system which maximizes in-app engagement, while minimizing argument, which is often a result of the same.
3. Suggestions for Lists
In another, smaller update, Twitter is also now recommending additional profiles to include in relevant lists, as it continues to evolve its new, topic-based discovery features.
As you can see in this example, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra, down the bottom, there's a new listing of profiles that Twitter's systems think fit the context of your chosen list.
It's another way to help improve tweet and profile discovery, and while Twitter's recommendation algorithms still have a way to go in matching context and relevance (in the past week, I've had Twitter recommend 'Cats' and 'Weather' among various vague topics it thinks I might be interested in, which have little connection to my Twitter behavior), as it's systems improve, such additions could help to connect more communities, and expand relevant conversations via tweet.
It'll be interesting to see where Twitter goes next on each of these aspects - and as always, we'll keep you updated on any changes and announcements.