Twitter experiment sends out breaking news direct messages

@eventparrot, which appears to be a test by the company, distributes breaking news to followers via direct message.

@eventparrot might be a Twitter experiment for a new way to deliver big news to followers. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET
Twitter may be testing out a new breaking news notification system called Event Parrot.

The account, @eventparrot, sends direct messages to users who follow it, allowing them to "keep up with what's happening in the world." It currently has about 7,000 followers, including Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams. So far, the account has posted no public tweets, just direct messages.

The profile calls itself a Twitter experiment, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's an official company test. Twitter won't confirm whether it's running the account -- it declined to comment Thursday -- but the odds are pretty high that it is. Twitter has said that it's constantly experimenting, and @eventparrot resembles other test accounts it has launched in the past.

"Some changes are visible -- they may help you protect your Twitter account or make it easier to share photos; others are under-the-hood changes that help us suggest relevant content in real time and make Twitter more engaging," the company said in a blog post last month.

As TechCrunch pointed out, Twitter has run clandestine accounts before to try out new ideas. The @magicrecs account turned out to be a test that led to Twitter's addition of push recommendations for accounts to follow and interesting tweets. Like @eventparrot, the bio for @magicrecss started with the phrase "This is a Twitter experiment." In late September, Twitter revealed in a blog post that it had used the account to test out sending instant, personalized recommendations for users and content via direct message.

As Twitter edges closer to its IPO, the pressure is on not just to generate revenue, but to demonstrate that it still has a lot of growth potential. One particular strength for the company is Twitter's use as a news distribution center. Big stories have started to break on Twitter, and having a direct notification system could be a way to expand that capability. Presumably, Twitter could find some way to charge news outlets to distribute their information through the account.

The company is hoping to raise $1 billion with its IPO, despite the fact that it has never made a dime of profit. In fact, its S-1 filing revealed that it had lost $69 million in the first half of 2013, up from $49 million in losses a year earlier. Clearly, the company has no choice but to do whatever it can to boost revenues, as well as attract and keep users.

Update, 7:10 a.m. PT: Twitter declined to comment.

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About the author

Shara Tibken is a senior writer for CNET focused on Samsung and Apple. She previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. She's a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."

 

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