For years, Twitter has remained pretty much the same. One of its most memorable product updates came in 2017, when it doubled the number of characters that can fit in a tweet.
But in recent months, the company has signaled an itch for change, with plans for an audio chat service, a platform for newsletter editors, ephemeral content, and new moderation tools that give people more freedom. control over their conversations.
Twitter on Thursday took it a step further by announcing ambitious plans to expand with new subscription options and new communities for specific interests.
“The notion of Twitter changing looks like a new concept,” Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s chief consumer officer, said in a recent interview. “It is still far from reaching its potential, despite the influence and value it has in the world.”
The heart of Twitter, launched in 2006, is still tweets. But the company urgently wants to attract more users – many more users – and impress skeptical investors without burdening its service with cumbersome features that appear after the fact.
Although Twitter was at the center of last year’s tumultuous presidential election and continues to exert disproportionate influence in political and media circles, young social media peers like TikTok, Snapchat and Clubhouse have grown much more. quickly.
Snapchat now has 265 million daily active users, more than Twitter’s 192 million. TikTok, which became widely used in the United States in 2018 and does not regularly publish usage figures, said last fall it had about 50 million active US users per day. And 11 months Flag has 10 million users.
Over the next three years, Twitter aims to increase its number of daily active users by at least 64%, to 315 million; increase the speed at which it launches new features to the public; and at least double its annual revenue, Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, said Thursday at an event for industry analysts and investors.
Change, Twitter executives and employees say, is overdue. “It boils down to three criticisms: we are slow, we are not innovative, and we are not trustworthy,” said Dorsey.
Mr. Dorsey has in recent years pushed the company to broaden its mandate beyond 280 character conversations and lead larger discussions
But Twitter has long resisted change. The direction of the company’s product development team has changed regularly, and the small adjustments Twitter has managed to make have changed regularly. laughed at by its users. After taking over product development in 2018, Beykpour often joked that like product managers before him, he could end up on the chopping block.
Last year, Elliott Management, a hedge fund, quietly amassed a 4% stake in the company and then attempted to oust Mr. Dorsey, arguing that he doesn’t focus enough on creating innovative new products on Twitter, as he also oversees financial firm Square.
Twitter has reached an agreement with Elliott Management to hold Mr. Dorsey. But the episode rocked the company in an acquisition frenzy. He bought a mobile advertising company, a social video app, a podcasting company, a design company, and a newsletter provider.
“We have bought almost 20 companies for hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years,” Ned Segal, chief financial officer of Twitter, said in an interview earlier this month. “I think our pace of mergers and acquisitions is consistent with the pace of innovation within the company. We are going faster. “
Twitter has also added a host of features, including pop-up stories dubbed “fleets,” moderation tools that help users limit the number of people who can respond to their tweets and live audio conversations called Spaces.
It also revamped its network, which was largely built in the early days of Twitter, before modern cloud computing services became widely available. The company is also experimenting with subscription products, like newsletters, that would help creators make money on Twitter.
“This is the change that Twitter is in right now: there are a lot of things Twitter is willing to try,” said Esther Crawford, senior product manager at Twitter. Ms Crawford co-founded the social video app Team, which Twitter acquired in December. “People are actually in this moment of excitement around the experimentation we’re doing.”
On Thursday, Twitter launched new features, such as community groups and “Super Follows,” which would allow users to subscribe to exclusive content from other tweeters. The company also said it will hire engineering teams in regions it plans to develop, such as India and Africa.
Some of Twitter’s latest features aren’t available to all users, so it’s hard to quantify their impact. But the company’s audience is growing. Twitter said it added more daily active users in January than on average over the previous four January. And Twitter’s stock is higher than it has been in years, and is up over 100% from a year ago.
Last week, several Twitter designers hosted a space to discuss the app’s appearance. About 30 users listened to what, before the pandemic, could have been a brainstorming session in a conference room at Twitter headquarters. On Wednesday, a group of Twitter engineers responsible for building the company’s Android app held another public meeting.
“When you work in public, you work faster because you are held accountable to the people you interact with,” Ms. Crawford said.
But some analysts remain skeptical that all of Twitter’s experimentation will come down to shaking up the competition.
“They’re trying all of this experimentation and it feels like a lot of little things that don’t necessarily stack up into a more cohesive app experience or a social media experience,” Jessica Liu, senior analyst at Forrester, said in an interview with Beginning of the month. . “I just want to understand from their top executives, what is the long term vision for Twitter?”