Twitter's new Moments spotlights events as they unfold

Moments directs users to curated collections of tweets and discussions taking place across the social network. The feature could be the most important product update in Twitter's history.

Twitter hopes lightning will strike its new Moments feature.

On Tuesday, San Francisco-based Twitter introduced Moments, arguably the most important update to the service in its 9-year history. Moments, which was developed under the code name "Project Lightning," points Twitter users toward discussions taking place across the social network, which has emerged as the go-to place to follow events as they happen.

The feature introduces a new wrinkle into how Twitter can be used. In the past, Twitter users found other members whose comments they liked and followed them. Now they choose curated collections of tweets under a special Moments tab.

The company hopes Moments will help people quickly tap into the "best of Twitter."Twitter

Moments, which was introduced just a day after co-founder Jack Dorsey was reappointed CEO, debuts as the microblogging company seeks to convert its social influence into a bigger audience that can drive its revenues. Despite its influence on world culture, Twitter has just 316 million active monthly users, a fifth of Facebook's 1.5 billion. Worse, user growth has slowed to a trickle.

The new feature is designed to attract people who are put off by Twitter's unending barrage of tweets and the baffling symbols that direct them through the service.

Moments "could be the key to converting casual Twitter users into regulars," Ross Sandler, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, said in a note to investors. He said that could push the service into the mainstream and possibly boost its anemic growth.

With Moments, users open a tab to follow photos and videos of real-time events. These can include cultural memes, breaking news, sports or conversations between world leaders. The company has teased Moments since June.

During a conference call with investors Monday, Dorsey said Moments represents the social network's priorities: simplifying the service and better communicating the Twitter brand to the mainstream.

Moments is an "opportunity to really make sure that we can show off exactly what's going on in the world in a very contextual way," Dorsey said on Monday. "And we've been playing with it internally for quite some time, and it feels amazing."

Forrester analyst Erna Alfred Liousas said Twitter needs to keep experimenting with ways to get users onto the service. "This should be the beginning and not the end of new products we see from Twitter."

Twitter recognizes Moments' days as a development project by displaying a lightning bolt tab when people open Twitter. Tapping on the tab opens a list of Moments to follow. Moments constantly updates the feed with the latest information, denoted by a blue dot in the upper right-hand corner of an image connected to the Moment.

Users can swipe through to specific topics, such as entertainment and sports to find previous tweets on the subject. Moments are video and photo heavy, compared with many tweets, which often rely on text.

Moments is an overdue change, said Debra Aho Williamson, an eMarketer analyst. "It will attract people who have been turned off by the endless stream of tweets," she said. "The videos and the images are the main things."

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said Monday that Twitter will launch one of the biggest product marketing campaigns in its history to get news of Moments to a mainstream audience that may have abandoned the service.

Adam Bain, Twitter's new chief operating officer, added that Moments is a huge part of a product re-envisioning.

"I can't wait for the world to see some of what's coming, [Moments] included, but also some of the bolder ideas that the team have to make Twitter an easier place to both create and consume content," Bain said.

Moments is currently available only in the United States on the iOS and Android mobile operating systems and on the Web.

Update, 1:45 p.m. PT: Includes additional comments from analysts.

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