It’s been only seven months since Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey returned to the company as interim CEO–and three months since that role was made permanent–but we’ve already seen major changes taking shape at the social network. And we’re not just talking about Dorsey’s epic beard. As Twitter molds its product (and overall strategy) in an effort to jump-start its stagnant growth, we’ll undoubtedly see even more shifts throughout 2016.
In the wake of a major executive shake-up at Twitter this week, here are the most notable developments of Dorsey’s latest tenure far, annotated by–what else?–tweets.
Feature by feature, Twitter is slooooowly shifting away from its strictly reverse-chronological timeline. And why shouldn’t it? With so much noise flowing through the social network, who’s to say that this paradigm is really the most useful way to tap the firehose of information, conversation, and snarky one-liners?
In early October, Twitter unveiled Moments, a collection of curated tweets tied to specific events and news stories. Although the little blue dot accompanying the new Moments tab in the Twitter app drove some people insane, the feature has become an easy, at-a-glance way to see how the major events of the day are unfolding on Twitter.
A year ago, Twitter started resurfacing slightly older tweets that users may have missed while they were away. This seems to be an extension of that incremental shift away from the timeline. In an earnings call last year, Dorsey said that Moments represented “a real shift in our thinking,” so stay tuned for other features that aim to tame the raging river that is your Twitter timeline.
Like it or not, Twitter isn’t afraid to tinker with its oldest, most established features. For evidence, look no further than the death of the fave. In November 2015, Twitter officially swapped out the star-shaped “fave” button in favor of the more Facebook-esque, heart-shaped “like” button.
As one might expect, many Twitter users were vocally upset about the change. Such a reaction is inevitable anytime a heavily used product makes even the most minor change (See: Facebook). But, as it turns out, the new like button has helped engagement, which is exactly what the team was going for.
This one is more of a rumor, but can’t be ignored: Twitter is reportedly thinking about breaking out of the 140-character limit and extending the maximum length of tweets to 10,000 characters. The seemingly dramatic shift, which Dorsey has acknowledged is a real possibility, naturally provoked outrage. But as many users–including Dorsey himself–pointed out, extending the character limit wouldn’t kill the traditional 140-character display, but rather let people post longer bits of text without having to take a screenshot from elsewhere. Right now, these screenshot blurbs are invisible to Twitter’s search engine, not to mention the ads team and Cortex, the team working on artificial intelligence at Twitter.
Like its competitors, Twitter relies on user eyeballs to generate cash from advertising. Promoted tweets and users were an obvious place to start building out Twitter’s social ad business, but they’re not going to single-handedly propel the company to massive profits.
It didn’t take long for Twitter to start pumping ads into Moments, its new event-specific tweet-curation effort. Evidently, the new Moments tab is garnering enough eyeballs to justify the risk of turning users off with more ads. But it doesn’t stop there: The company is experimenting more and more with commerce, allowing users to buy things right from the Twitter timeline.
Video advertising is another crucial new frontier for Twitter, and the company seems to be mimicking YouTube’s model for ads.
The tinkering doesn’t stop at new ad formats. Some so-called “VIP” users are reporting that they’re seeing fewer ads on Twitter than other users see. Could an ad-free experience be the new blue “verified” checkmark?
Of course, you can’t always redirect the ship with the same crew in place. Earlier this week, five Twitter executives abruptly left the company. Head of media Katie Jacobs Stanton, head of product Kevin Weil, engineering VP Alex Roetter, human resources VP Brian Schipper, and Jason Toff, head of Vine, all left the company.
As unexpected as it may have seemed, the shake-up was reportedly part of a restructuring that has been planned for some time. Today, Twitter announced that its long hunt for a chief marketing officer came to an end with the hiring of Leslie Berland, who comes to the company from American Express.
We suspect these aren’t the last headlines about Twitter leadership changes we’ll see in 2016.