Twitter is rolling out a new look across the web and new mobile apps — offering a consistent, more personalized and photo-heavy experience — one that’s consistent no matter where people are using the service.
Twitter is enabling people to customize their pages with more photos and more information about themselves. Users will be able to easily browse tweeted photos, even on smartphones, and easily watch video without leaving the platform.
These changes come as Twitter continues to roll out advertising, and while there are no direct implications for its ad revenue, if Twitter can engage people for longer, they’ll presumably see more ads.
By upgrading its mobile apps, Twitter is clearly looking to capitalize on its strength in mobile —chasing consumers as they shift their time to smartphones and tablets — and building on its head-start on Facebook. (Read More: Facebook's Zuckerberg Talks Business and Tech.)
Twitter is projected to bring in $129.7 million in mobile ad revenue this year, compared to just $72.7 million in mobile revenue at Facebook, according to e-Marketer. Though Twitter is still far behind the dominant mobile ad player, Google , eMarketer projects it will more than double those mobile ad dollars next year. (Read More: Who Has the Edge in Mobile Ads Wars?)
Take Control of Twitter Experience:
Twitter’s upgrade comes as it cracks down on third-party developers — preventing them from duplicating its core function with rival apps. With the launch of a new Apple iOS app, Twitter has dropped the option of a third-party image upload service — users have to use its own Photobucket-powered service. Instagram used to play a huge role in Twitter’s photo sharing, but now that Facebook owns Instagram, Twitter is improving its ‘photo stream,’ which works similarly as many independent developer’s rival photo products. (Read More: With iOS6, Apple Finally Embraces Facebook.)
Last month the company announced it’s taking control of its fire hose of data when it comes to rival services. If people are Tweeting or reading Tweets, the company wants to power that experience so it’s consistent, and control the ads. (Twitter is continuing to allow independent companies to access its data stream for other services — like data analytics or customer relationship management).
All About Photos, 'Like' Facebook?
Twitter’s new photo-heavy look has drawn comparisons to Facebook’s ‘Timeline’ format, which tells users' history with an arrangement of photos. Now Twitter users can put a giant photo behind their ‘avatar’ pick, just as Facebook allows users to set a massive wallpaper at the top of their profile page. This move seems an acknowledgement of the starring role photos increasingly play in social media.
Facebook and Twitter clearly have different missions: Facebook is about sharing with people you know, while Twitter is about sharing with the world beyond your friend network. (Read More: Facebook Will Make More Money on Mobile - Zuckerberg.)
But this move shows that Twitter wants to be a destination for sharing and browsing photos, just as Facebook has been in the past. Though Twitter and Facebook aren’t direct competitors, they are both competing for users time and how they choose to share. And now Twitter is trying to make the Twitter experience as visually compelling as Facebook’s.
-By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
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