New improved Twitter.com
The aim of the new Twitter is engagement - keeping users within the Twitter fold and stopping them from wandering all over their web to get their Twitter fix. All good in the chase for those advertising dollars, but perhaps less so for the third party eco-system that builds apps around Twitter.
At first blush, the revamped site is easy to use and more compelling when you get there.
The new set-up offers a split-screen with two panels. On the left side are tweets, mentions, retweets, lists and a search option and on the right your profile is laid out very clearly along with trends, lists and favourites. It is easier to check out video and photos and engage with the community.
In an interview with Twitter chief executive and co-founder, Evan Williams, he explains the thinking behind this first major overhaul of the site since its inception four years ago. He called it "transformative".
"We like the old Twitter but we thought we could make it better. We are so excited about the new one because it has everything the old one had but it is faster, easier to get more information and we think it is just an overall better experience."
The site was tested over a number of weeks with employees and users. Twitter didn't reveal numbers.
"At first it wasn't obvious how to incorporate the features we wanted to incorporate so we did a lot of testing to make sure that people understood it, understood what they were seeing and could navigate around and eventually that helped us get to the right design."
Of course the original design of Twitter was a very simple one with little clutter, so what was the approach aesthetically speaking?
"We hope to maintain the simplicity and the ease. We think this (new version) makes it a lot easier because, even though there is a lot more functionality now, its clear what is going on. So you can take a simple short tweet and now get more context - get more information in less time. You can see the embedded video, the embedded picture. You can see what a tweet is about and other information much more easily than you could ever see before. There was a lot buried underneath Twitter before and now we are bringing that to the surface.
"We thought it was very important to keep the simplicity and so we didn't want to lose that. All the new stuff on Twitter is something you can opt into and drill down into the tweets and get more details, and jump around and discover and explore. Or you can not do that. You can use Twitter pretty much as before. Things load faster. There are more short cuts to do more things but it doesn't take away from that simplicity and we wanted to maintain that simplicity and really support what people were doing before."
It is all about engagement but Twitter said it doesn't know how long people spend on Twitter because "it has never been a goal to increase or maximise that. The goal of this really has always been to give people the maximum value for the time spent.
"We would actually like people to not spend much time on Twitter at all. We would just like them to get as much valuable information while they are there. So if this decreases the time, that's fine as long as they are getting more for that time."
So is this about aping what Facebook does?
"I just don't see that at all. This is about supporting what people are already doing on Twitter and Twitter is fundamentally an information network. It is about finding out what is happening in the world that is important to you and this makes that experience much better and I don't think there is anything like it."
Naturally I picked up on that reference to being an "information network" and "not a social hub".
"We have never called Twitter a social network and from the beginning we designed it with this model of you follow information sources that you care about. These might be your friends, business leaders, experts, politicians, celebrities, media. That is the model that there is nothing else like and it came from a lot of experience in publishing and helping to get more information flowing in the world. That has always been our goal. There are social aspects to it, but it has never been a social network."
At Chirp, Twitter's developer conference earlier in the year, Mr Williams said that Twitter was hard to use. Adding all these layers with more functionality, surely adds to that complexity.
"You don't get simplicity by being cryptic. A lot of the most popular products have tons and tons of features because features make things easier. That is the whole point of the features we built in here. Hiding information doesn't make things easier. We are exposing more information. We are making things more obvious. If you see a username you can now see that person's real name and their bio and you can follow them right there. That is easier. That is the goal of all these features - make it easier, faster, reduce the number of steps required to do your things, see conversations, see media. I think it is going to be pretty intuitive for people."
More promoted tweets. Will that get in the way of the experience?
"No because they were always designed to be context relevant and what I mean by more promoted tweets is that there is going to be more discovery of tweets in general. There is more searches linked throughout the product and with promoted tweets we always measure engagement with them and if people are ignoring them, then they drop away. So that's a good safeguard about them being in the way."
Twitter said it hadn't shown the re-engineered Twitter.com to advertisers, even though advertising revenue is important to help pay the bills. So what opportunities will they see here?
"We've definitely think it is going to be a good thing for advertisers. The fact that it increases engagement, we think it will increase engagement with tweets, allow you to embed media. You know that's powerful for a lot of advertisers if they want to attach a photo, a video. They want to expose more of the conversation. Advertisers come to Twitter because they want engagement and conversation and this exposes more of that. So I am pretty confident they will be excited. This will improve that out of the box."
Twitter has helped create a healthy third party eco-system where a number of businesses have successfully created apps to make the Twitter experience easier for users. Doesn't this sound the death knell for the likes of Seesmic, TweetDeck etc.
"I don't think it sounds the death knell. We have made it pretty clear that third party clients are important, they add a lot of value to Twitter. That doesn't mean we are not going to improve the interfaces we own and control. That's something we have been doing for at least the last couple of years. This is the biggest change we have ever made and there are lots of other opportunities still. Our goal is to deliver the best experience to the most people possible, to make people more happy and engaged Twitter users."
What does this revamp say about Twitter's evolution?
"This is definitely a transformative moment for Twitter and it reflects a lot of things. It reflects a big leap in what the user experience is obviously, and I talked a lot about how we want to make Twitter a great experience for consuming and understanding what is happening around the world. Not just creating information and not just sharing. And it also reflects a big leap in the maturity and evolution of the company. So infrastructure and scalability is still a number one priority for us. But we have the capabilities to design such a great new product because we are a better functioning and bigger organisation."
You could have left things are they were because you weren't being deluged by complaints.
"You can never leave things as they are in this world. We started Twitter almost four years now and most of our time has gone into being able to handle the load and the demand for it. It is such a simple product but it got a lot of people engaged. We have just scratched the surface of what is possible. Our whole point of delivering Twitter is bringing value to people's lives and if we can do more of that, we will do it.
"It's evolve or die and not only that it is exciting and fun to create more and better products. We create this because we like it, we think it is a great product and we think it is going to be valuable for people. We're still just getting started. There is so much more that this lays the foundation for that we just can't wait to do the next stuff."
So what about that next step?
"We will see how this goes, but there is definitely a bunch more stuff in the works."
No, I didn't seriously think he was going to answer that question either.