Software // Social
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2/13/2014
11:49 AM
Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham
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Dear Twitter: Stop Imitating Facebook

Twitter tests a redesign of user profiles that borrows heavily from Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest. Here's why we hope Twitter reconsiders it.

If imitation is a form of flattery, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest should be charmed by a drastic redesign that Twitter is reportedly testing.

The new profile page features an extended cover photo with tabs below it to view the user's tweets, photos, and videos; accounts they follow and their followers; favorite tweets; and lists. The user's profile picture is moved to a new left-hand column; below it are the user's bio, location, suggested followers, and trending topics.

Most notable is a change in the user's personal tweet stream. Tweets are no longer displayed chronologically; instead, they're arranged in a mosaic, similar to Google+ and Pinterest. The homepage remains relatively unchanged, though some tweets are displayed larger than others, possibly indicating that -- like Facebook -- tweets with higher levels of engagement will be shown more prominently.

Image via Mashable
Image via Mashable

Last month, Twitter launched a redesign of the site's homepage that more closely resembles its mobile app. It's unknown how many users have the new design Twitter is testing or whether the company plans to roll it out more broadly. We hope it doesn't; here's why.

Goodbye variety
Pinterest and Google+ look alike. Google+ and Facebook once looked alike. With Twitter's proposed redesign borrowing design concepts from Facebook, there's little variety among the most popular social networks.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter's product and design have changed very little over the last eight years. Tweets are still capped at 140 characters and are displayed in a stream. Twitter hasn't faced the backlash that Facebook is accustomed to after major changes because users know exactly what they'll see when they log on. There's a certain comfort in knowing that Twitter's design is unique, and that it won't strayed far from it.

Facebook's design has become the gold standard for some social networks and many social business platforms, but it's unnecessary for Twitter to follow suit. We don't need all of our social networks to look the same. Twitter's concept has always been simple, which is why it deserves the simple, straightforward design we're all used to. Not every social network needs to be Facebook -- variety in design, features, and product help distinguish one social network from another. Change can be good, but sometimes it's unnecessary.

[Facebook has suffered some strikeouts during its 10 years. Read more: 10 Famous Facebook Flops.]

Goodbye chronology
Twitter's new profile design borrows heavily from Google+ and Pinterest. While the new look favors rich media with larger photos, deemphasizing the chronology of posts makes it feel overwhelming and cluttered.

When Facebook first redesigned its Timeline, it abandoned its display of sequential posts by breaking users' profiles into two columns. Users never grew accustomed to it, and ultimately the social network ditched it for its traditional one-column view.

Google+, on the other hand, rolled out a redesign last year that absolved it of Facebook comparisons, borrowing instead from Pinterest. If Twitter's redesign does launch more broadly, it will be interesting to see which path its users take: resistance a la Facebook, or acceptance a la Google+.

Goodbye control
If there's one thing many Facebook users lament, it's the power that algorithms have over their accounts -- in particular, the ones that determine which stories they do and don't see in their news feeds. The changes Twitter is testing likely incorporate similar algorithms.

Which posts are seen at the top of a user's profile, and which ones are shown further down? While Twitter has not commented on any of the redesign's potential elements, the popularity of your posts --how many people have favorited, replied to, and retweeted them -- could determine which tweets appear where. The same goes for users' homepages. Presumably, more popular posts will be displayed more prominently.

What do you think about the changes Twitter is testing?

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 8:19:50 PM
Re: Losing share
Simplicity and (reverse) chronological order. If Twitter goes the way of Facebook and tries to use an algorithm to filter the stream, I won't be using it.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 5:25:43 PM
Re: Losing share
Most of you seem to echo that simplicity is what makes Twitter attractive. Is there any feature you wish it did have?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 5:07:26 PM
Re: Losing share
I echo what you and David said. One reason I use Twitter more than FB, LinkedIn or G+ is because it is so simple and immediate. I like the search. It's basic and functional. It does what it needs to do quite well and that's it.
Jim Donahue
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Jim Donahue,
User Rank: Moderator
2/13/2014 | 3:53:15 PM
Re: Losing share
"Twitter's virtue is simplicity."

 

 I came down here to say exactly that. Simplicity is what sets Twitter apart. Lose that, and you might as well be Facebook.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 1:49:50 PM
Re: Losing share
My take is offering tools for organizing and filtering their feeds would be great -- if they're optional and leave users feeling in control of the experience. But they need to figure out "the Twitter way" of enhancing the feed, rather than copying somewhere else.

Twitter has to remain sleek and unique, or there is no point to it.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2014 | 1:34:46 PM
Re: Losing share
If these changes could help users to find content in a more organized fashion, provide users the ability to locate new topics of interest (hash tags are good, but not perfect) and follow up with peers that have commented on a topic then these changes could be nice.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 12:58:43 PM
Re: Losing share
Twitter's virtue is simplicity. If they lose that, they've lost everything.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 12:50:54 PM
Re: Losing share
Of course -- From a business point of view, Twitter needs to compete. From a consumer point of view, it's unfortunate to see it moving toward becoming like the others.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 12:13:58 PM
Losing share
I hear what you're saying, but Twitter is losing momentum in terms of new users, right? And now that it's a public company, it has to be like a shark - always moving lest it drown.
Social is a Business Imperative
Social is a Business Imperative
The use of social media for a host of business purposes is rising. Indeed, social is quickly moving from cutting edge to business basic. Organizations that have so far ignored social - either because they thought it was a passing fad or just didnít have the resources to properly evaluate potential use cases and products - must start giving it serious consideration.
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