Back in the late 2000s, Twitter had a bad “I Ate A Donut” problem: Feeds were dominated by tweets announcing painfully mundane activities. The social network, seeking to gain a more serious reputation, introduced a feature called Discover in 2011 that highlighted quality content. But as Twitter increasingly became the favored social network of the media world and the go-to place for breaking news, Discover felt sluggish in comparison to the chronological Twitter home feeds. On Thursday, Twitter announced it is retiring the Discover tab and beefing up its Trends feature, adding a trending list to its existing search function as a way for users to see the most popular hashtags and topics.
Instead of Discover’s fumbling attempt serve personalized content in a separate tab, the revamped Trends feature adds brief descriptions and lightweight analytics (total tweets, trending direction) within Twitter’s search function on mobile. In categorizing and describing trends on-the-fly, Twitter wants to help users make sense of not just the churn of tweets, but the flow of what everyone is talking about, pushing interaction and making Twitter a more navigable hub of activity.
Becoming more friendly to new users has been a problem for Twitter, which, unlike Facebook, does not offer much by way of a tutorial when you first join. Last November, Twitter’s vice president of product Kevin Weil outlined a new vision for Twitter that would ease new user experience, pre-loading a new feed with tweets and bubbling popular tweets to the top in order to ramp up retention, which Twitter has struggled with. In other words, a curated feed like Facebook’s.
The retirement of the Discover tab is an exception for Twitter, which has few failed features in its history (in contrast to Facebook, which has killed many features over the years). Trends will likely serve the very purpose that Twitter had originally intended for Discover, points out TechCrunch. Trends will initially be available to U.S. users with the iOS and Android Twitter apps who have tailored trends turned on, though Twitter is experimenting with expanding Trends on their web app.