As someone who built a product that started off on Twitter, I follow what they do quite closely. Often times at Stocktwits we would see our roadmaps be eerily similar as both companies shared a core set of similar problems to solve. After years of focusing on improving the core feature set, Twitter seems to be quite busy releasing or announcing a ton of new features and functionalities. It's so many, it's worth taking note, and will give my take on each.
Audio Tweets and Group Audio Tweets
In June, Twitter rolled out Audio tweets, which based on my usage of the platform haven't really taken off yet. In December they announced that they would be testing group audio chat rooms, which is their answer to Clubhouse, currently the hottest social network out there. I've seen a few of these pop up in recent days.
My Take: I like to see Twitter experimenting with different content formats, though audio hasn't really taken off yet. They share a very similar interest graph as Clubhouse, and Clubhouse is doing a good job of taking this behavior off platform, so group audio makes more sense than individual audio posts - but it may be too late at this point for Twitter. I remember when they bought Periscope while Meerkat was getting popular it signaled the end for Meerkat, and while it wasn't obvious at the time, the end of Periscope as well. I wonder if they make a similar move on Clubhouse, regardless.
Fleets are Twitter's answer to $SNAP and Instagram stories. They launched these back in November and not much has changed with the product since. They launch is very bare bones and you can't really draw or do all that much on the canvas at this time. The usage has been interesting as it seems to be more Instgram-y type content from people who would ordinarily post on their authority area.
My Take: Fleets are interesting for Twitter as people seem to be using them, despite the lack of features. Personally I enjoy sharing them just to see who views them, so they have a LinkedIn type voyeurism value prop that is well, interesting. I don't, however really find myself compelled to view them. The feed itself is so loud, and so different that they are a bit of an oversight - which is different from what they accomplish on Instagram or Snap. This feels like a rushed first launch with some early good signal (unlike Audio), but they need to think about what "stories" means for Twitter, and how to integrate it into the feed itself.
Birdwatch was announced recently and is their decentralized community moderation solution. It's essentially a group of power users, with special permissions to help moderate the discussion and keep the global Twitter community healthy.
My Take: I love this. I think in many ways Twitter is competing with Reddit and other platforms that have community moderation built in from the start. At Stocktwits we launched Rooms with this in mind. That said, it will be incredibly difficult for Twitter to have classes of users, if the tensions behind the blue check are any precursor. I think this is a multi year investment that is worthy, but will be very hard to justify to both investors and community members, alike.
Newsletters & Long Form Content
Substack has been a media success story of the last year and Twitter recently announced they bought their biggest competitor, Revue. I've already seen a few tweets from people saying that Twitter is reaching out to them to get them started. Right around the same time they announced this acquisition, their Open Source team announced an Open Source Text Editor. This went a bit more under the radar, but was just as big, IMO. At the very least this is to help support their new Newsletter business. It could also point to a large publishing push in the future.
My Take: I like the Revue acquisition a ton as I think they should and could bring on platform and monetize this off-platform behavior. A larger push into long form publishing could be very interesting, and if anything it may allude to them seeing Reddit increasingly as a competitor. These are BIG investments however in time, engineering, and product focus. They could pay off big, however.
This morning, it was leaked or rumored that Twitter is exploring adding subscription features such as charging for Tweetdeck or Undo buttons, as well as tipping for top creators. This is all in an effort to diversify their business model off of Ads. It's been something that has been rumored for quite some time.
My Take: This makes sense given their move into Newsletters, and more globally as a company that needs to monetize a much smaller but highly influential and active user base. Clubhouse is already discussing paying creators, which is quickly become the next big trend in social and platforms at large.
What Does it All Mean?
One thing is clear, Twitter is either doing many more things than usual or at least talking about the things they are doing. I am more in the camp of the former. From a product perspective, this is a ton of stuff to be doing and doing well. They are trying to be a Twitter, a Substack, a Snapchat, a Clubhouse, and a whole new business all at once. I personally like to see them doing some of these things, but its a bit scary to witness.
I personally think they should focus on capturing the value of behaviors and transactions that are naturally moving off platform, rather than driving new behaviors that happen to exist off platform, such as Fleets.
Regardless of what will happen, it's clear we're moving into a new era of Twitter.