Twitter launches 'Highlights,' to help users cut through the chaff

The social network's new feature draws from a user's information to provide digests of relevant tweets and keep people from getting overwhelmed. It's currently available for users of Android devices.

Twitter's Highlights feature is the social network's latest attempt to increase people's engagement with the site. Above: Twitter's SF headquarters.
Twitter's Highlights feature is the social network's latest attempt to increase people's engagement with the site. Above: Twitter's SF headquarters. James Martin/CNET

Twitter seems to be taking a cue from Facebook.

The company announced on Thursday a feature called Highlights that -- like Facebook's News Feed -- is designed to draw on a user's information to deliver relevant content and keep people from becoming overwhelmed.

"While your home timeline is a great place to browse through and engage with Tweets, we know it can be challenging to find the time to get through everything," Twitter said in a blog post Thursday.

So Highlights serves users a concise selection of tweets once or twice a day to provide a summary of what's being talked about on Twitter. The Highlights -- currently available only for devices running Google's Android mobile operating system -- are delivered to a user's smartphone via a push notification. Users swipe through the highlighted tweets and eventually wind up at their Twitter timeline. The feature "lets you catch up quickly on the best stuff that is most relevant to you," Twitter said in its post.

"To create your Highlights, we look at things like the accounts and conversations that are popular among people you follow, Tweets from people you're closely tied to, topics and events that are trending in your area or within your network, and people that are popular or trending among people you follow," the post said of the opt-in feature.

Highlights is the latest in a string of changes before Twitter's first-quarter earnings report April 28. Earlier this week, the company introduced an opt-in feature that lets users receive direct messages from users they don't follow. The company also recently released Periscope, an app that lets people stream live video to the site.

And last week, the social network redesigned its US home page so that people who aren't registered on the site, or who aren't signed in, can still see a selection of popular tweets. Twitter has been trying to convince Wall Street that it has a larger audience than just the monthly active users it publishes numbers about. During its fourth-quarter earnings report in February, the company said around 288 million people actively use the service monthly. Wall Street had been hoping for about 295 million such users.

For its part, Facebook recently announced several changes to its News Feed, designed to let users see more posts from their friends and to make it more difficult for companies to put up unpaid posts.

Gartner Research Director Brian Blau said Thursday that the Highlights feature could help Twitter attract more users who don't want to be bogged down by an endless stream of tweets.

"It's going to help those who really aren't into Twitter, those lurkers who have an account but aren't participating all of the time," Blau said. "This potentially could be a nice feature and maybe will prompt more engagement."

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