Twitter has a problem: A number of users tweet, then lose interest. It needs a way to reengage them in the site. And tonight it’s starting to test one way: Notifications.
The test is currently only rolled out to a “limited” number of users right now, according to this update. But those who have it should notice an indicator similar to what Twitter does to let you know there are new search results on a query (see a capture above and below). There’s another service that does these types of notifications for new messages also: Facebook. Yes, Twitter for once is taking a playbook from its rival rather than the other way around.
When Twitter was still a young service, it used to auto-update with new tweets as they came in, in realtime. That was one of the first features killed off as the service began to explode in size and was having trouble scaling. FriendFeed implemented a similar live-updating stream before the Facebook acquisition, and that seemed to help boost engagement. Twitter currently offers live updating stream with its widgets.
There has always been some debate as to whether a constantly updating stream is better than notifications. Twitter is clearly now choosing the latter. When FriendFeed first launched it, plenty of users complained that the live updating was moving too fast. Seeing as Twitter is much larger than FriendFeed ever was, that could be an issue. The notification method is probably easier on server load than the constantly moving stream, as well.
As you can see in the screenshot below, these notifications shows up in the titlebar as well (just like with Twitter Search).
[photo via stephromanski]