Twitter is attempting to make its desktop and mobile interfaces more engaging. The latest update includes in-stream previews for photos and videos.
Twitter is considered as a social network meant more for sharing status updates and messages, as opposed to the likes of Facebook, which encourage better engagement through multimedia sharing, comment threads and tagging. But in its run up to its planned initial public offering (IPO), Twitter is experimenting with ways to improve the user experience, which includes some tweaks on its web interface and mobile apps.
In Twitter’s latest updates for its iOS and Android apps, the status update stream will now include previews for images and videos embedded in the message. Twitter says tweets are now “more visual” and each tweet will give users options to engage — replying, retweeting or marking a tweet as a favorite, straight from the status update itself.
For now, only Twitter photos and Vine videos will automatically be previewed in the stream, although it is likely that Twitter will also support other formats and media sources in the future. Twitter has lagged in this respect, especially with the social network’s stance against embedding Instagram photos, particularly because the popular photo-sharing service is now owned by Facebook.
This update goes beyond engagement, however. Twitter has been experimenting with ways to improve profitability, particularly through advertising. Buzzfeed says this update improves the virality of media-laden tweets, making it easier to share, favorite and follow. Additionally, auto-playing media will pave the way for commercial or sponsored content on users’ Twitter feeds. GigaOm says this could either be helpful or hurtful. It might help Twitter’s bottomline by making it a more attractive platform for mobile advertising, but users might be turned off with auto-playing videos if these are commercial in nature.
Still, Twitter allows Android and iOS users to turn off auto-previews, which means users who would rather not have multimedia content automatically playing on their feeds have the option to stick to a plainer interface.