According to Twitter software engineer David Chen, the new updates allow photos to be viewed from a standalone profile page or in a larger pane, similar to how users now view images on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Without having to navigate to another website, Twitter's new feature streamlines the user experience and cuts down on the legendary loading times that have the subject of countless user complaints.
Chen also said that Twitter's video content partners, including its newly-minted Vine app and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube, will be supported in the new viewing option, meaning that users can watch videos on a reasonably sized screen separate from the rest of their feed.
These changes may seem like minor adjustments, but the timing for Twitter is key. Coming after a barrage of major updates to both the company and its core service, a new-and-improved user interface is the first step toward rebranding the entire social network. Though micro-blogging is what got Twitter to where it is today, the company is clearly interested in expanding beyond 140 characters.
The new service updates to its website show an eagerness to centralize all information received through Twitter within Twitter itself. And as the company’s feud with Instagram showed, it’s willing to kick other services to the curb for the sake of strengthening its own ecosystem, no matter how popular those third-party services may be. Streamlining multimedia content-sharing puts the company in the same league as Tumblr and, someday, maybe even Facebook -- though to truly compete with the latter it might have to create a private messaging service that actually works.
For a company with a hotly debated IPO expected sometime in the not-too-distant future, strengthening its social network's ecosystem can only be a good thing. Earlier Wednesday, fellow Internet startup Dropbox introduced an update to its file-sharing service that would simplify its photo-sharing and image-viewing features. Much like Tumblr’s dashboard update last week, the pared-down Dropbox weds the simplicity of short-form content sharing that Twitter perfected with a deeper and more robust user experience than Twitter currently offers. TechCrunch even said the updated Tumblr looks “more like a fully featured Twitter than [a] blogging platform.”
Twitter, meanwhile, is approaching the problem from the opposite end -- adding depth to its features to become a “fully featured Twitter” of its own. What all these Internet companies is looking for is a sort of Goldilocks balance between the services they actually offer and the means by which those services are delivered. At the end of the day, it will be a race to the middle.