Twitter to newbies: Try it, you'll like it

A redesign of the service means people can find new content more easily, says Ryan Sarver, director of Twitter's platform. But plenty of existing users are panning the changes.

Ryan Sarver, Twitter's director of platform, at LeWeb
Ryan Sarver, Twitter's director of platform, at LeWeb LeWeb/screenshot by Stephen Shankland-CNET

PARIS--Power users have criticized Twitter's new design , but the company made its choices carefully about what to spotlight and what to hide in the new interface.

"When you're trying to simplify a product, you have to make some tough decisions," said Ryan Sarver, Twitter's director of platform, at the LeWeb conference here today. Thus, direct access to direct messages and Twitter user lists got pushed deeper into the interface.

"They are still one click away and part of the product," Sarver said. "We wanted to focus on the main timeline, the ability to connect, and the ability to discover great new content."

Twitter wanted its service to be better for new users, and an empty text box where they can publish a tweet is a bad start, he said. Instead, they need to be able to find content--thus the emphasis on the "discovery" section marked with the # symbol.

"Engagement is getting someone to sign up, to create a timeline" that shows tweets of people they follow, Sarver said. "Eventually they start to retweet, to favorite, then they start tweeting."

Twitter's new interface is simplified and consistent across iOS, Android, and the Web.
Twitter's new interface is simplified and consistent across iOS, Android, and the Web. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

The new interface also unifies the experience across the Web, iOS Twitter app and Android Twitter app. People who want to try it can download the mobile versions or sign up at fly.twitter.com.

Twitter's new look

What's your take on the redesign of Twitter?


It's not been well received in some circles. Of the 791 ratings in Apple's App store, the app has 418 one-star reviews. Sarver, though said of the feedback, "I'd say very positive."

Twitter also has launched a new version of its power-user software, TweetDeck, for Mac users. It drops the Adobe AIR software foundation with a native design--but it also drops features some people cared about. Of its 85 ratings, the most common is one star, with 25 people giving it the lowest score.

The service is growing fast. Twitter now has 100 million active users who collectively produce 250 million tweets per day, Sarver said. The company itself now has 700 employees.

Twitter has began a program called promoted tweets last year to let advertisers reach Twitter users. Sarver said the company is happy with the program but is proceeding cautiously, even though it brings in revenue that's essential for a start-up to survive.

"Revenue is like air. You need it to live. But it's not the point of living," Sarver said. "The early numbers from putting promoted tweets in the timeline [are] insane. We have 5 percent engagement compared to display ads with 0.03 or 0.05 percent. We'll scale that up in an interesting, careful way."

The redesign brings brand pages to Twitter , giving companies an anchor on the site beyond just a few words and a list of tweets.

"We don't call them brand pages, because those same features will be available to all users at some point," Sarver said. "We're starting with a few advertisers now."

Twitter has released a version of TweetDeck that runs natively on the Mac for Twitter power users.
Twitter has released a version of TweetDeck that runs natively on the Mac for Twitter power users. Twitter
 

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