Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey gestures while interacting with students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi on November 12, 2018.
Prakash Singh | AFP | Getty Images
The biggest problem with Twitter? The product never changes.
That’s what analyst Nate Elliott said back in 2015 when the microblogging social network was under tremendous pressure to show Wall Street it was capable of user growth.
“If you used Twitter the first day it existed and then slipped into a coma for eight years and woke up today, you’d recognize the platform. It looks very much the same,” said Elliott, who was an analyst with Forrester Research at the time. “While Facebook innovates every day and constantly offers users new ways to engage on the site, Twitter’s basically the same exact thing it’s always been.”
Elliott’s quote took on new relevance during an event at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Tuesday, where the company’s top brass briefed reporters about the latest features on the service. The company announced a follow topics feature that will connect users with content focused on topics of their interest. Twitter also announced plans to improve its direct messaging features and roll out a threaded comments feature it’s been testing to all users.
But what stood out most was when Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour said the company’s goal was to deliver substantial changes to the product experience.
“That’s one thing that we are super intentional about,” Beykpour said. “Hopefully you start to see it and hopefully our customers continue to see over the next year or two.”
It’s easy for anyone to say they’ll change and do better, but in 2019, Twitter has proven there’s substance behind Beykpour’s words.
Just last month, Twitter endured user backlash after it rolled out a major website redesign. In March the company drastically overhauled its app’s camera feature, and released a prototype app called “twtr” where adventurous users can be guinea pigs for the company’s experiments. Threaded comments, for example, originated as twtr app experiment.
These changes seem to be working.
User growth has been on an upswing since the start of the year, going from 126 million monetizable daily active users in February to 139 million as of July, up 14 percent compared to the year prior. And Wall Street has taken notice — Twitter’s stock price is up more than 45 percent year to date.
Changes aside, analyst Elliott today remains skeptical.
“When they say they’re making changes to the user experience, I don’t know that they mean anything more than the look and feel of the core functionality,” said Elliott, who is now founder and principal of his own research firm, Nineteen Insights.
The company’s changes thus far in 2019 are a welcomed improvement to user experience, Elliott said, but Twitter has a long history of executives overpromising change and underdelivering.
“The more they experiment the better,” Elliott said. “I’d just like to see some of it end up on the actual platform”