Events tracking, autoplay, character extension and machine learning make a busy week for Twitter

Latest raft of product advancements and machine learning acquisition comes as social media platform prepares for departure of its CEO following financial struggles

Twitter has capped off a busy week of proposed enhancements, a machine learning acquisition, and executive announcements with big changes to the way people follow events using its service.

A major new feature, dubbed Project Lighting, will group together tweets, photos and videos related to whatever's happening in the moment. The move could make Twitter more useful for tracking current events at a time when its user growth is sagging.

The social platform has dabbled in the area of events before, but the new initiative should make it much easier to find content related to scheduled events like the Grammys or major news events such as an earthquake.

There'll be a new button on Twitter's mobile app that takes users to a page listing various events happening at that moment. Selecting one will take the user to a page of tweets, videos and photos related to that event. The content will be curated by Twitter staff, and users will be able to swipe through full-screen photos and videos.

Project Lightning will also be a way to engage people who aren't logged into Twitter. They'll be able to view the events on Twitter's website and in its app, and other websites will be able to embed the content.

The news was reported Thursday by BuzzFeed, which said the feature will launch later this year. Mike Davidson, VP of design at Twitter, called the feature "one of the sharpest things we've ever designed."

CEO Dick Costolo referred to it as "a complete system for content curation and distribution on and off Twitter."

A team of editors with newsroom backgrounds will use data tools to understand emerging trends and locate the best content from Twitter, the report said. They'll select what they think are the best tweets for each event, and each tweet, picture or video will fill the screen of the phone and include video from Twitter's Vine and Periscope apps.

Earlier this week, Twitter also revealed it will now host videos that play automatically in users' feeds.

Advertisers' videos and those uploaded to Twitter natively, for example through its new video recording tool, will play automatically on the company's desktop site and in its iOS app, with Android functionality coming soon, the company said Tuesday. The changes also apply to videos recorded with Twitter's Vine app, and GIFs.

Autoplaying videos, though possibly annoying, will help Twitter compete against Facebook, which started placing autoplaying videos, including those from advertisers, in users' feeds in 2013. Twitter makes the bulk of its money through advertising, and more Internet companies are looking to siphon video advertising dollars away from traditional TV.

On Twitter, the videos will start playing without sound unless they're tapped on. Twitter users who don't want autoplaying videos can change their settings to revert to the click-to-play format. Users can also change their settings so videos only play automatically when they're connected to Wi-Fi.

Users will not see auto-playing videos if they have a low bandwidth connection on their device, Twitter said.

Twitter began testing auto-playing videos earlier this year and will use the same amount of viewing time as Facebook to define a video "view": three seconds.

In a further indication of its step away from its 140-character heritage, Twitter also revealed it is removing the 140-character limit in direct messages on the platform. In a developer post, the company said the extended direct messaging capability will also be available from July and suggested a number of actions for. Tweets remain at the 140-character limit.

Outside the existing platform, Twitter also made an acquisition this week, purchasing Whetlab to bolster its in-house machine learning efforts. The US-based startup makes it easier for companies to use machine learning tools using technology developed by researchers at harvard, Toronto and Sherbrooke universities.

As part of the acquisition, announced Wednesday, Twitter will shut down Whetlab's beta service on July 15, and will no longer accept sign-ups for the product. Current users will be able to export their data from Whetlabs's website in either tab-separated format or JSON.

It's not exactly clear how Twitter plans to use Whetlab's technology to enhance its existing machine learning plans. However, the startup's tool seems useful for any company implementing machine learning techniques. The technology takes in information about the problem a user wants to solve with machine learning. It then gives the user a series of suggestions to help them optimise a machine learning model to solve the problem.

Users don't have to send Whetlab their data, nor do they need to use a special machine learning toolkit, according to the company's product page. "You can run your code on your own private machines at whatever scale you want. What we do is help you use those resources optimally by telling you what you should try next," the page reads.

The acquisition makes sense for Twitter, which is trying to offer users more customized experiences to improve adoption of its microblogging service. Machine learning is likely critical to those initiatives, and acquiring technology that makes the application of machine learning technology easier could benefit Twitter's in-house development process.

The slew of announcements come as the company prepares for the impending departure of Costolo on 1 July. Twitter co-founder and chairman, Jack Dorsey, will be taking over as interim CEO while the company looks for a new chief executive, the company announced Thursday.

Dorsey, however, remains CEO of Square, the payments company he co-founded in 2009. Costolo also retains his position on Twitter's board of directors.

The company has faced rising pressure to increase its value to users and shareholders, which has been a source of frustration and disappointment for many investors who have been calling for Costolo's head for the better part of a year. The firm has yet to post a profit since its initial public offering in 2013. Furthermore, the company's revenue growth has slowed over the past few quarters, and its first quarter revenue came in below analyst expectations.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Data has the power to build or burn brands

A brand can be severely wounded by use or misuse of any of its assets and you could say data has the greatest power of all to inflict damage.

Lucy Acheson

Head of data strategy and customer experience, LIDA

Totto and your inorganic future

At Cannes Lions this year we’ve been treated to many artificial intelligence (AI) insights. It’s one of the major discourses of our time.

Richard Brett

CEO, opr

Personas of one and the rise of ‘always there’ marketing

I’ve got some bad news. The ‘always on’ marketing approach that many companies have only just fully implemented is already out of date.

Nigel Roberts

Founding partner and strategy lead, Yell

I read you post full. It's really good .

Yusuf

Salesforce ups the Marketing Cloud ante with Datorama acquisition

Read more

Promotion is difficult. You should be able to do it. Sometimes it turns out bad, and when you turn to professionals, it turns out well - ...

Jordan Samuil

Village Roadshow partners with Lion for pourage rights and promotional partnership

Read more

This is very good news for Australian SMEs as ActiveCampaign is an very powerful marketing automation / email marketing tool that costs a...

Lawrence

SMB marketing automation provider sets up Asia Pac HQ in Sydney

Read more

Completely agree! For the best commercial properties in Mumbai, visit our website - Jagaha!

Gizelle

Salesforce ups the Marketing Cloud ante with Datorama acquisition

Read more

Carisoprodol is used for treatment of pain.so it has some amount of drug use it carefully . Get its complete usage and prescription from ...

jensons henry

CMO profile: The strategy behind Cash Converters brand and customer experience reboot

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in