Social Enterprise

The two features Twitter should have been working on instead of #NewTwitter

Twitter has done a major overhaul of its Twitter.com home page. However, that effort would have been better spent on two core features still missing from the platform.

Now that the new Twitter home page has rolled out to nearly everyone in the free world except for me and Chris Pirillo, I'd like to say a few words about it.

I don't like it.

How can I dislike something I haven't tried? Well, for the record, I have actually tried it. #NewTwitter rolled out to the TechRepublic Twitter account and I've tried it there. But, that's beside the point. Even if I hadn't tried it, I wouldn't like it.

Sure, it's spiffy and all, but the bottom line is that this is not the stuff the Twitter team needs to be working on — not when there's core functionality still missing from the Twitter platform. As I see it, there are two gaping holes in the Twitter feature set.

Here's what they are.

1. Message threading

Twitter executives recently said that Twitter is not a social network. I agree with that. I've said similar things about Twitter in conversations about social media over the past couple years. Twitter is more of a social communication platform. In some ways, it's more similar to email and Skype, for example, than it is to Facebook.

However, because Twitter is primarily an online conversation mechanism, it needs to build much better conversation functionality into the platform. The top priority should be message threading.

I'm not talking about fundamentally changing the way Twitter posting works in order to make it more like a message board. I'm just talking about adding a presentation layer that makes it easier to see and follow all of the conversations that are already taking place.

For example, add an option to each tweet so that we can easily see all of the responses to it and the people who have retweeted it. If two people have tweeted back-and-forth several responses, then show that as one of the breakout options when looking at a tweet so that we can see what conversations a tweet is a part of. Also, let us subscribe to a conversation by adding it to our Twitter favorites and then show a "new messages" number to indicate the new tweets that are associated with that conversation.

2. Voting

The other big feature Twitter needs to add is voting. It should allow us to give a thumbs up or a plus (+) to the best, most interesting, and most useful tweets. That one bit of functionality could add a ton of new value to the Twitter stream.

Then, in addition to having our big stream of the latest tweets from all of our Twitter friends, we could also have a second stream that has the highest rated tweets over the past 24 hours (with options to look at longer periods).

This would be huge for me (and a lot of others, I suspect) because I'm only on Twitter a few times a day and I don't have time to scan back through my stream to catch all the interesting stuff. As a result, I miss a lot of the best links and conversations. It would be great to jump in and quickly catch up on my stream's top tweets (as determined by the crowd) since the last time I logged on.

While they're at it, the Twitter team could add another default stream so that I can see the most retweeted posts from my friends' tweets, as well as the most retweeted posts on all of Twitter. I bet those two streams would make pretty decent news feeds. Retweeting is, after all, an even more powerful form of voting.

The other benefit of voting is that Twitter users would see the kinds of posts that people following them appreciate the most, and most people will naturally gravitate toward doing more of that kind of stuff and posting less about their trips to the Taco Truck.

And, don't forget the API

Both of the features that we're talking about here are things that lend themselves to underlying platform functionality and not just features on Twitter.com. In other words, these are things that should be integrated as part of the Twitter API so that Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic and mobile apps on iPhone and Android could innovate on the presentation of the features in creative new ways.

You can find me on Twitter as @jasonhiner.

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About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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