Twitter Moments was not designed with me in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I’ve been on Twitter, once known as simply a micro-blogging service, since 2007 and have never really looked back. It’s both my inner and outer voice.
The place where I get to share what’s important and wax random 140-character thoughts. It’s my number one news destination and the place where I’ve made dozens of digital friendships. I get Twitter and it, I think, gets me.
But there aren’t enough of “me’s” (not something anyone has ever said out loud). In recent years, Twitter’s user base growth curve has resembled a very flat and seemingly endless plateau. The company has tried many things to help reenergize growth, most recently replacing one CEO with an old CEO who also happens to be the father of Twitter.
Moments, however, is something new and very different, for Twitter, at least. The goal is simple. As one Twitter representative put it, Moments provides “better discovery for an easier, more delightful experience for users who haven’t been able to find value thus far.”
Hard to believe, but almost a decade after Jack Dorsey sent his first tweet, the general public doesn’t really get Twitter. They see tweets on TV and as embeds on websites, but, by and large, aren’t signing up and engaging because they don’t see the value. Facebook’s utility is obvious. It’s about connecting, conversing, sharing with a few, a group or the world. Twitter inverts the relationship between content and privacy in a way that may make average users feel exposed.
Moments launches on iOS, Android and the desktop web on Tuesday. On smartphones, it will be another tab. On the desktop, it’s a new menu item that sits between “Notification” and “Messages.” Moments started out as code-name “Lightning,” and while the name is gone, the idea lives on in the Moments lightning icon.
Current Twitter members will access Moments, which roll out to all U.S. users, by clicking on the Moments link (on the desktop), but for those not already on Twitter, they’ll see Moments right on the Twitter homepage, making it look a lot more like a news curation site. If you learn nothing else about Moments, know this: It is all about curated content and not about the random hashtag.
There is a real editorial hard at work here. Over at Twitter, Andrew Fitzgerald is, according to those with knowledge of the matter, overseeing the curation. Sources tell me that while Twitter may use hashtags as a driver for what to include in Moments, it will primarily focus on timely, relevant content. Moments will be the best of Twitter’s perspective on real-world events, high-profile content, user-generated trends and memes. The bar for what makes it into Moments may be quite high as the company may look at things like the source and location, how many users are engaging with tweets, the quality of the photos and videos, and if the content is unique to Twitter.
It will be of Twitter, but not really like it.
Moments is the answer to the question, “What would Twitter look like if it started as a news curation site?” Clicking on Moments on the desktop (and mobile) reveals a place that it doesn’t really look like Twitter — a fact that initially bothered me, but I soon grew used to it.
In the left column is a simple section navigation stack with “Today” up top. Under that you’ll find News, Sports, Entertainment and Fun. Each section is full of “Collections,” which is basically another word for “Moments.” Individual Moments (or Collections) revolve around a single story. Visually, every Moment has a category, like “Weather” or “NFL,” a much larger headline and a synopsis. Inside a Moment you’ll find a carefully curated and quite-attractive-looking collection of images and centered tweets.
Images are singular and in grids. Tweets are overlaid on images and those tweets without images are in larger fonts (at least larger than your usual Twitter stream tweet) and, interestingly, centered. The overall effect is consumer-friendly and inviting. It says “Come in, stay a while.”
While every tweet in Moments looks different than the Twitter I know, there are also some comforting and familiar elements. Every image, tweet, Vine and embedded video includes the usual Twitter tools: retweet, favorite and more.
If you mouse over a tweet within a Moment, your mouse, oddly, turns into an hour glass. I get why Twitter did this: Consumers understand that a magnifying glass means expand or explore. Sure enough, if you click on a tweet, it opens in a pop-up window, complete with the tweet interaction below it. Even so, I think it’s bad form to take over a known Internet metaphor, the “pointer,” just to make consumers feel more comfortable. It also reveals what I see is as a critical Moments weakness: You cannot access the links embedded within tweets unless you drill all the way down to a tweet. Again, this is in service of breezability. Why read the whole story when you can learn so much by perusing curated tweets?
Like I said, Moments is not built for me.
Each Moment, though, also adds the ability to copy the link to the whole thing or embed it, a la Storyful, in your own Web site. That option is hidden in a set of ellipses at the top right corner of every Moment. I assume Twitter didn’t front-load this because consumers are unlikely to embed these on any website.
Once inside a Moment, you’ll also notice that the left column expands into a lively area of additional Moments to explore. Each one has a thumbnail and quite of few of them are looping videos. There’s so much to see and ingest.
Moments really reaches its interface apex on mobile where images and tweets fill the whole screen and you navigate via gestures. The experience feels very Snapchat like.
In iOS, Moments appears at the bottom of the Twitter app interface right next to Notifications. Touching Moments slides you into Today’s top Moments and the story collections. The Top one fills half the screen and automatically plays if it’s a video. The same category and headline appears, but owing to the smaller interface, there’s no synopsis. A click on any tweet in the Moment opens it full-screen, but you’ll need to click again to view the actual tweet. What’s better, though, is simply swiping through all the tweets in the Moment. You get great imagery and tweets and just keep swiping until — and this is different for mobile — you reach the end of the Collection and are presented with “You’re caught up” and an option to share.
Twitter works hard to avoid dead-ending you, so if you keep swiping you’ll go right into the next Moment. At any time you can tap the small “x” at the top right corner of the screen to exit a Moment and return to the main Moments screen.
At launch, there will be 20-to-30 Moments a day. Old Moments, by the way, do not expire, so you can always scroll back to past Moments for updates or to, um, relive the Moment. Twitter’s Moments team will be on 24/7 looking for new stories for Moments. A select group of media outlets and partners like the NFL have access to curations tools and will also be creating their own Moments. You’ll be able to identify them by the partner logo that should appear with them.
Twitter is doing some Moments integration with the traditional Timeline, but in a totally non-invasive way. When you’re inside a breaking news or live event like, say, The Emmy’s, the Moment will offer the option of temporarily following it. This adds the series of Moment-related tweets to your timeline. When the event ends, you automatically stop following those tweets. It was the one feature I couldn’t see in action.
Twitter for you and you and you
The truth is, Twitter has run out of people like me to join and it has to engage with the rest of the world. What it discovered, to its endless chagrin, is that regular people just don’t get unvarnished Twitter. Moments is for those people. It’s a news page, it’s an entertainment page, it’s a fun page. It’s a place where you can consume without consequence and maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall so in love with all Twitter has to offer that you will join, start to engage and even hope that, one day, your own tweet gets featured in Twitter Moments. It’s a near perfect circle.