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The Best Subtle Things About New Twitter

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So, the new version of Twitter.com is upon us — well, some of us anyway (it’s in the process of a gradual roll-out right now that will likely last over the next couple of weeks). Everyone at Twitter I spoke with today agreed that this is the single biggest change they’ve ever made to the site since its initial launch. That’s going to rub some people the wrong way, but overall, my initial impression is that this is definitely an upgrade in pretty much every way. But it’s also going to take some getting used to — and some learning.

I’ve been playing with the new version for the past hour or so going through the ins-and-outs. So far, here are some of the more subtle (some more subtle than others, obviously) changes that I’ve noticed about the new Twitter.

“What’s Happening?” Not As In Your Face

The “What’s happening?” box obviously still sits atop the tweet stream, but it’s a bit narrower than it was previously. And you’ll notice that by default there is no “tweet” button. It’s only when you click in the text entry field that this button (and the character-count and the location information) appears. This seems to go along with what CEO Evan Williams stated earlier — that Twitter doesn’t have to necessarily be about tweeting, it can be about exploring too.

Real Names Appear

Next to people’s Twitter handles, you’ll also now see their actual names in gray. This is a subtle, nice change, though it would be nice to have the option to turn this off.

New Tweet Overlay

Again, while the “What’s happening” box remains at the top of the tweet stream, it’s not the only way to tweet anymore. You can now hit the pad of paper/pen icon in the upper right corner to compose a new tweet in an overlay box. This allows you to tweet without losing your position in your tweet stream. Further, you can hit “n” on your keyboard to bring up this overlay (more on the keyboard shortcuts in a second).

Flickr Set Support

This is perhaps the most slick thing about the new Twitter. While photo and video views are nice, you can actually share a link to an entire Flickr set of pictures and see a bunch of little thumbnails in the right pane. At the bottom of this pane, a slideshow for the pictures is also automatically created. Very nice.

Messages Area Is Much Cleaner

The Messages area — the artist formerly known as Direct Message (or “DM”) — is now much cleaner and easier to navigate. It would still be great to have a badge show up on the upper toolbar when a new message is waiting for you though.

“?” Keyboard Shortcuts

If you hit the “?” key on your keyboard, it will bring up an overlay with all the different keyboard shortcuts you can use on twitter.com now. I already pointed out “n”, but “m” is also great to message someone quickly, or “r” to reply to someone quickly. You can also use “j” and “k” like you do in Gmail to page through tweets. There are also apparently a few hidden ones.

“.” To Refresh

Easily the best keyboard shortcut though is “.” which refreshes your tweet stream. I don’t know about you, but on twitter.com, I must hit the “XX new tweets” button a hundred times a day. No more.

Larger Profile Page Icons

The better to see you with.

Clear Retweet And Favorite Labels

A two-shade green retweet label appears in the upper left corner of a tweet that has been retweeted, while a two-shade yellow star appears on tweets that are favorited. This clearly takes a design cue from Twitter for iPhone.

Most Recent Favorites And List Additions

Your most recent favorited tweet is also now shown in your standard right-side pane. Also here are the lists you’ve been most recently added to.

“Tweets with links” and “Tweets near you” in searches

Now when you do a search, you’ll have the option to filter for only those tweets with links or only those close to your location. The latter is particularly useful if you’re looking for a specific type of information. I’d love to see an option to filter for only pictures and/or videos as well.

New Error Messages

Thanks to Twitter’s new architecture for this new version, when there are problems, the site shouldn’t completely fail as often — it may only half-fail now. A good example of this is when tweets are taking a long time to load on a profile (which is happening right now undoubtedly due to everyone trying to test out the new version), you’ll see a concise explanatory message of what’s going on — complete with links to “Try again” or to the Twitter Status blog. Despite the new messages and architecture, I’m told the Fail Whale is definitely not extinct and will show up from time to time still.

Who To Follow Expansion

Twitter’s great “Who To Follow” feature now shows your four recommendations rather than two. It looks like this feature may be disabled for the moment but it was working earlier. Obviously, no one likes to see the same ones over and over again, but I’m told Twitter is also tweaking things so that these recommendations become a lot more fluid based on your actions on the site. This remains steroids for their social graph.

Retweet Overlay

Like messages, Retweets have a new overlay that makes it very clear that you’re about to retweet a message. There’s now a nice big blue “Yes” button you have to click.

Great Looking Tweet Landing Pages With Photos

Previously, when you tweeted a photo, it was obviously just a link. Now, thanks to the new embedding of photos, they can be seen in the right sidebar. But they also show up on individual tweet pages themselves (under the tweet) and look great.

That’s the stuff I’ve found so far. Anything else you’ve noticed about it? Feel free to leave a comment.

Update: Here are a few more things.

Some Hidden Keyboard Shortcuts

I listed the ones Twitter includes in the “?” menu above. But here are some of the hidden ones:

  • “gu” – go to user
  • “gf” – go to favorites
  • “gp” – go to profile
  • “gr” – go to mentions
  • “gh” – go home (when not on the main screen, obviously)

Click the Twitter Logo To Jump To Top

Normally on a site when you click the logo, it will reload the page. But with the new Twitter, if you’re scrolling far down the page, clicking the logo will simply return you to the top. (Hitting “.” when you’re down the page also does this.)

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