Twitter introduced a controversial update this week with embedded pictures and videos appearing on the site and in iOS and Android apps. Instead of post after post of text with the option to expand for rich media, a tease of the image or video appears within the Twitter card. This lets everyone automatically display content automatically, including those using sponsored posts and native advertising.
However, one needn’t stick the qualifier of “controversial” on update these days. With a bevy of free online services looking for different paths to monetization, every change seems to elicit an uproarious reaction from legacy users.
I'm really disliking these embedded Twitter images. First the stupid thread view and now his. Why do you hate us, @twitter?
— Chris Hoffman (@ChrisTheHoff) October 30, 2013
Twitter now shows visual media directy within TL without you having to click on tweet for embedded media. THIS CHANGE IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK.
— Sibongile Mafu (@sboshmafu) October 30, 2013
Of course this isn’t anything new. From 2008 onward, any new feature or change Facebook made to its user interface was accompanied by grassroots protests amongst its hardcore users. News stories would wax on about a Facebook group with millions of members opposing changes to the News Feed or the introduction of the Like button. Even the introduction of Timeline was met with extreme vitriol at first.
Where are these groups and protests now? For the most part they’ve disappeared except for the occasional nostalgia-fuelled comment about the old days – the social network’s bet that new features attract more users than those they drive away has payed out.
Others have not been so lucky. Matthew Ingram points out Twitter may suffer the same fate as MySpace with a deluge of images which can look unattractively showy. Promising upstart Path has been marred by controversy since it’s integration with a phone’s address book and contacts has proven suspect - the company was once valued at $1 billion, but has seen that decline to more than half the amount, as well as a decrease in users.
Twitter’s moves are a little more calculated. Though this feature was unveiled on their blog yesterday – some have seen this view on their phones for the past month. Much like Facebook rolls out updates piecemeal in isolated groups, Twitter introduced a beta program for their Android users this past summer. The new view has appeared there for weeks and received tweaks and fixes based on user feedback.
Undoubtedly there are fears that advertisers will abuse this new ability and turn Twitter into a digital Times Square. This is hyperbole but still a legitimate concern. Only time will tell, but Twitter has shown itself a leader when it comes to helping marketers with native advertising and sponsored content, as evidenced on their sites dedicated to best practices and education.This is another step of many more to come in their monetization plan – there won’t be many chances to pick themselves up if they stumble.