There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the “new and improved” Twitter. Aside from being either criticized or heralded as “the next Facebook”, it was hard to tell from the initial reports what exactly was changing. Lucky for me (and for you), the preview hit my account this morning, and I was able to poke around a little bit. So what’s new about the new Twitter?

When I logged into my Twitter account, I noticed a blue bar across the top of the screen, welcoming me to #NewTwitter! Once I clicked the “try it now” button, I was greeted with this screen, which pretty much summarizes the new changes. Twitter gives the example of a post from NASA, which includes some images. This welcome screen says that if you click on the arrow button in a tweet, rich media and related content will open within the same window.
new twitter welcome screen

The New Twitter: So Rich

Interestingly enough, the welcome window and it’s example don’t actually show you how the revamped Twitter works. Once you click that “ok, thanks!” button though, everything comes into perspective.  Here is what Old Twitter looked like, when I viewed my homepage:

Old Twitter

This particular view has been fairly consistent since the launch of Twitter in 2007. This is what most of us are used to. Tweets appear on the left. Navigation is in a sidebar on the right. Now take a look at this:

New Twitter

It may seem like a small change. The right sidebar has doubled in size, while the space for tweets has decreased. Now, they each take up about half of the page. The basic navigation for mentions, retweets and lists is now just underneath the update space.  Just a few small tweaks, which happen to make all the difference.

At Home on Twitter

With this new improvement to the Twitter site, users no longer have to leave the page in order to view the content shared by the people they follow. Whenever a user links to rich content such as images or video, a small icon shows up in the upper right side of the tweet. When a user clicks on that icon, the content expands into the area on the right side of the screen. For example, I can watch a video about  the National Museum of the American Indian’s preparation for the Mario Martinez painting “Brooklyn” while scrolling through news posts and reading the latest updates from my friends. I can curl up inside of my cozy little Twitter world and view the dusty relics of Wil Wheaton’s garage without ever having to leave the page!

twitter embedded video twitter image view

Twitter uses this same feature to display the retweets and replies to a post, giving Twitter an even more conversational quality than it had originally. When a tweet mentions another user on Twitter, that person’s basic information will show up in the expansion on the right side of the screen. This makes it even easier to find interesting people to follow.  For example, now I not only know that Olivia Munn has joined the cast of one of my favorite shows, Chuck, but I can also see a few details about her, and decide whether or not she’s worth following (I think she is).

twitter mention

Another great feature of the new Twitter is infinite scrolling. I am currently following over 200 users on Twitter, and many of them update very frequently. I could easily tire of the scroll, click “view more, scroll, click “view more”, scroll, lather, rinse, and repeat routine that was necessary in order to view the tweets posted by those I follow. Apparently, those days are now gone. Instead of a repetitive sequence of “view more” buttons, I can now scroll and scroll and scroll. Twitter just keeps going, like an endless highway of instant information.

The new and improved Twitter also gives users the ability to save searches. If you can’t get enough of searching for mentions of Lady Gaga’s meat dress (and really, who can?), you can save the search and save yourself some time the next time your curiosity strikes.

Twitter vs Facebook

“So Twitter has some new features”, you’re thinking. “So what? What does it all mean?” For some people, this means that Twitter is the new Facebook, but without the constant barrage of Farmville and Mafia Wars app posts. To me, it doesn’t seem as though Twitter is trying to compete with Facebook as much as it seems Twitter is merely expanding on the way its users already implement the service. People use Twitter to share their thoughts, and what they are doing in the moment. The main reason for the 140 character limit is that Twitter was originally intended to be a mobile service, and it was too difficult for some people to view anything longer than that on a mobile device.  We are a world of people who are constantly on the go, but we are also a world of people who have grown accustomed to sharing  our experiences. Now, if I go to the museum and see a painting that I find particularly striking, I can not only tell my followers, but I can show it to them. They’ll get to see that work of art next to my name and my other updates, and rather than just being another link, that painting will become something that they associate with me. This is perfect for social media marketing services. As the video above illustrates, ideally users will be inspired by the recommendations of others. The new Twitter strives to bring us all a little closer together. In my opinion, it succeeds. What do you think?