Before Moments was released on Twitter last month, there was no standard Twitter experience. Each and every timeline was tailored to the individual user. Even with the assistance of suggested accounts, no one had the same experience. Ever.
That was a huge problem.
“I don’t get Twitter.” — Most people I know personally
I recently tried explaining Twitter to a relative.
“Twitter is what you make it, really,” I said.
I was struggling to explain this thing I use throughout the day, every day (as a newspaper, as entertainment, as a distraction, as real-time research), to someone I know well.
“You know, I follow the people and things that interest me: tech bloggers, comic book artists and writers, comedians, news agencies.”
“It’s best to think of it as a stream of information you dip your toe in from time to time. You don’t have to read everything.”
It shouldn’t have been that hard.
With the introduction of Moments, Twitter is able to point new users toward a unified, curated experience.
Moments is a major step forward for Twitter because it provides them with something analogous to Facebook’s News Feed.
Facebook’s News Feed looks the same to everyone: one central feed down the middle of the screen filled with text, photos, videos, and ads — and a whole bunch of garbage no one pays attention to the sidebars. The feed itself is determined by algorithms and the troves of data Facebook has on you: whose photos and political screeds you’ll see most often, and the fastest remarketing algorithms in the Valley.
The stuff on the side is all the stuff you may or may not use: Facebook Groups, Pages you might manage, apps you’ve used Facebook to authenticate, the name of every damn song that one friend plays on Spotify — oh, and more ads.
With Moments, Twitter inverts the News Feed. Just like the News Feed, it looks the same to everyone, but the content is determined by editors at Twitter (or a publishing partner like Buzzfeed). All the loose-tie relationships you’ve created by following accounts across Twitter are still there, they’re just relegated to your individual timeline — to the sidebars, essentially.
Moments has also given Twitter a fantastic future ad platform, once they monetize it beyond pay-to-play Moments from big publishers. They will have a place to charge big money for advertisers who want to get a lot of impressions across the entire service, beyond timeline ads tailored by interests, or through promoted tweets and accounts. Those campaigns won’t be considered torso or long-tail by Twitter SEM specialists. They likely won’t even have an SEM equivalent; they’ll be more similar to traditional TV commercials, but cut to the length of a Vine.
Beyond uniformity and future ad potential, this analogy gets a bit threadbare.
At this early stage, there is no indication that the Moments tab and the Timeline will ever be merged into something like a unified News Feed. (As a longtime Twitter user, I am showing my Timeline bias here.)
But since it is curated, Twitter’s moments are also embeddable. Facebook’s desire to be a walled-garden (aside from Instagram public profiles) doesn’t have a similar product yet.
Twitter is iterating quickly on the experience of Moments, but it’s clear the company believes the feature is integral to the future of Twitter.
The beauty of Twitter, as I tried to explain to my relative, is that the service is what you make it. With Moments, the Twitter experience is now what Twitter itself tries to make it: for new users, for seasoned users, and for future users.
Just like Facebook has its uniform News Feed that looks the same whether you have 30 friends or 3,000, Twitter now has an experience that, finally, looks the same for everyone.