Yesterday, Twitter launched a new version of its homepage (you have to be logged out of your Twitter account to see it). Biz Stone wrote a blog post about the new homepage, noting:
“Today we’re trying a redesigned front page for folks who are new to Twitter.com. If you’re a regular around these parts, then you won’t notice the new look unless you sign out of your account. Helping people access Twitter in more relevant and useful ways upon first introduction lowers the barrier to accessing the value Twitter has to offer and presents the service more consistently with how it has evolved.” [Emphasis mine]
Now, let’s look at this new homepage design:
There is absolutely nothing in this design that introduces new users to what exactly it is that they as content producers can do with Twitter. The focus is 100% on searching Twitter for relevant real-time results and for seeing what topics are trending over the past minute, day, and week.
This is an important note to understand as a content-producing user of Twitter: although Twitter wouldn’t work without you, Twitter doesn’t see you as its main audience in terms of its business plan. The new homepage doesn’t do any of the things that were hinted at last week when news of a new homepage first arrived. The new homepage lacks any sort of introduction to what Twitter is, what microblogging or tweeting is, how to sign up for an account, or why you would want to tweet. The closest Twitter comes to doing so is the first word in the tagline: “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” The rest of the tagline focuses on discovery and this amorphous concept that an individual Twitter user cannot contain in his/her own tweets: “anywhere in the world.” There is nothing in this new model of Twitter’s homepage to try to entice new contributors or to try to convince more people to sign up for Twitter and begin Twittering. There is plenty here to entice people to come and watch and search on Twitter.
Twitter as a search engine
After buying another company to make its internal search better, Twitter is now actively positioning itself as a search product where we’re all supposed to come and discover things. This is a very smart and strategic move for the mythical Twitter business model that everyone is always speculating about. Imagine if in the big struggle between Google and Bing, if suddenly people started saying “Did you Twitter that?” but meaning “Did you search for that?” rather than “Did you tweet about that via your Twitter account?” (the current meaning).
Twitter doesn’t need more contributors who cannot be monetized right now. Twitter already has a very large userbase of some of the most engaged producers of content on the planet. Adding more users to that group right now dilutes the group’s effectiveness at doing what Twitter needs that group to do most: power Twitter as a search product.
We’re all cogs in the machine of Twitter, Twitter doesn’t see any of us as its core audience except when we search, powering it to be a useful search engine for live search. Twitter 101 is geared specifically at businesses and now the homepage is geared specifically at people coming to Twitter to search and discover interesting things. Search is something that can be monetized, very well, right now, and which also can clearly lead to a future, large dollar acquisition.
This is all very smart on Twitter’s part; I just hope that it targets correctly the points in time when Twitter will need to refocus attention to maintaining us cogs in the machine in order to keep us happy and to keep the machine running.