Forget your favorite Twitter app: the newly redesigned Twitter.com's two panel layout adds rich media, keyboard shortcuts, infinite scrolling, and conversations to what used to be a plain old website. The redesign's rollout began tonight. Here's a preview of the new features it gives you, in your browser--no app required.
When you're logged in, the new Twitter timeline offers a two panel view.
Click on a tweet to expand a panel to the right with its details, including who was mentioned in it, who retweeted it, and other tweets from that user.
If a tweet contains a link to an image or video from a supported site like Flickr or YouTube, that rich media will appear in the tweet, no link-clicking required:
Lest you fear an unexpected photo of a meat dress--or worse--you can control whether or not you see rich media from only your friends, or from everyone. Head to the settings area to check the "Show photos and videos from everyone" box. By default, it is unchecked.
As you use it, you'll discover Twitter supports bits of media you didn't expect--like full Flickr photo sets.
In addition to embedding photos and video, the new Twitter surfaces lots of tweet metadata: like a location map, list of people mentioned in the tweet, replies to the tweet, and the people who retweeted in a tweet panel. It's almost too much.
Click on any location to see a map and tweets from there:
When you run across a tweet in reply to someone else, the new Twitter now displays the exchange between those two users, much like TweetDeck. But unlike TweetDeck, the new Twitter only shows two tweets in a conversation, so you won't see the rest of the thread if a reply has a reply.
Individual tweet pages also show all the meta info and embedded media:
Like Gmail (and before it, old-school Unix text editor vi), the new Twitter offers keyboard shortcuts like j and k for next and previous tweet, slash to search, and r to reply to a tweet. Tap the question mark key to see a panel of available keyboard shortcuts.
Tap the spacebar to scroll down your timeline of tweets infinitely. When you've selected a tweet you want to know more about, tap Enter to expand its right panel, and shift+Enter collapse it.
Most Twitter users have been using the web site to tweet anyway. But the new Twitter.com gives the rest of us a reason to reconsider launching our favorite desktop application. There are a few things the new Twitter.com doesn't do for power tweeters as well as an app like TweetDeck or Seesmic: such as manage multiple accounts or schedule tweets for future posting. Otherwise, the new Twitter has some of the best app functionality built into it, no download required.
Related: Twitter Gets a Makeover