Twitter has just released an update to its Android client (coming soon to iOS) that brings new photo editing tools to the service, which are likely meant to make it easier to share photos direct and keep people out of competitive apps like Instagram. The second change adds a significant element of event discovery and real-time trend monitoring to user timelines.
The event surfacing is the more interesting element, since it marks a considerable attempt by Twitter to meddle with the straightforward chronological nature of that part of its service (besides promoted content). In case a user doesn’t have any new tweets to load when you manually update it, it now brings up recommended posts from people you don’t follow, as well as trending topics and suggestions about new people to follow. In the U.S. only, it surfaces event updates for things unfolding on TV, in sports and on the news.
Each content update features a link to click through for more tweets centered on that conversation. It’s an extension of some of the other work Twitter has been doing around surfacing events and breaking news, including the Eventparrot experiment and a feature that was tested back in August to highlight nearby events via proximity-based alerts.
A couple of things to flag about this change: It only happens when there’s no other new content for a user to view, and when they express a desire for more content, which is very clever; and it represents a way for Twitter to secure its place as the source of live, real-time information about things unfolding on the ground, a reputation that Facebook clearly covets.
Others are already capitalizing on Twitter’s ability to identify and follow events as they unfold, including Banjo, but Twitter adding this as a native feature in its mobile clients could change the nature of the service at a basic level. Should it roll out globally, and expand its scope, mobile users could be using Twitter a lot more for things like local discovery than they had been previously.