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Twitter will look different after today: everybody freak out

When a major social network alters its look and feel there is a predictable pattern: Surprise, rage and usually acceptance.

On Tuesday, Twitter Inc. announced some changes to its Web-based profile pages – bigger photos, some more customizing tools – some of which had been hinted at and leaked online.

The company blog used celebrity pages to show users how awesome and exciting it was going to be, @flotus (otherwise known as U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama) got top billing, but Scandal star @kerrywashington and musician @JohnLegend were also in the early group. The objections by users focused on one chief complaint: Hey, this looks a lot like Facebook (for several more profane versions of user responses see @Twitter's official tweet). Even if the core mechanics of Facebook and Twitter couldn’t be more different, the idea that your personal homepage looks similar to the hated Zuckerberg-machine (with its billion users) is enough to anger some tweeters.

There are some similarities to Facebook’s current profile page design, see above (cover photos and the columns). But the reality is, not many people visit the profile page. Most action on Twitter is mobile, and most of that is in its app, and these changes will not affect those experiences. This is essentially a play for desktop Web, and it’s fair to say the old profile was looking a little ... er, 2009-ish.

There are three functional changes that might make people want to visit the profile page more often, the first two are vanity-based:
  • “Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger, so your best content is easy to find.” As you can see above, the text on @channingtatum's Jump Street photo is larger)
  • “Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.” Presumably this is an upgrade on the experience of writing your Twitter bio, which most people use as a form of performance art.

But the final tweak is the most interesting: Filtered tweets. Twitter is clearly trying to find better ways for you to experience the feed that you build through the people you follow. In the new design, when you visit a profile page you can choose between three ways to view their feed: “Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies.” These filter settings are available on apps such as Tweetdeck, but bringing that function into main Twitter is a good idea (now they just need to update their mobile apps).

So, to recap: Twitter has redesigned! People don’t like it. Eventually, they will stop grumbling because it may actually be a good thing. Welcome to social media.
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