Media & Entertainment

Twitter updates twttr prototype app with engagement swipes, conversation tweaks, better Dark mode and more

Comment

Image Credits: Twitter

Twitter’s new prototyping app twttr, which it created to test and get feedback on new features — and new approaches to old features — has been out in the wild for a month. Now, with Twitter taking in the first wave of responses from users, twttr is getting an update. The move highlights how Twitter continues to chip away at ongoing criticism that it is too confusing for most people to use, which has impacted overall growth for the social media platform.

The latest version of twttr — which is now used by several thousand people, says Twitter —  is a decent step ahead in that mission.

Updates include: the introduction of a swiping gesture, specifically in conversations to like a Tweet; new labels in threads indicating who is the original poster and who you follow and improved visibility with dark mode. Ironically — even as Twitter has shifted to putting experimental features into twttr — the latter app is also getting an import of new features from the main Twitter app, which has been getting updates that had yet to be rolled out to the prototype app.

These include new versions of the Twitter camera, darker mode and profile previews that keep you in your timeline.

Above: twttr gets the new “Lights Out” mode, already in the current Twitter app

Overall, those who are using twttr say they prefer it to the official Twitter app, says Sara Haider, Twitter’s director of product management. That likely means certain features are sticking enough in the prototype app that they will be making their way into the permanent Twitter experience. But what form that will ultimately take is still in play.

One of the big areas that is still seeing some changes are engagement buttons — that is, the options to “like” a Tweet with a heart, to reply to it, or to retweet. These are a cornerstone of how Twitter is used, but they are also potentially distracting and add to the noise in an often chaotic experience, since timelines and potentially conversations are more or less constantly on the move.

In the new build of twttr, engagements do not appear by default in conversation threads, as before. But now, you can swipe to the left on a Tweet in order to like it. However, replying or retweeting still requires a tap.

Above: When you swipe on a tweet, a heart appears over the tweet to indicate you’re liking it. It’s Twitter’s own take on the IG double tap.

This is not exactly new: it’s an iteration of what we saw in the first major build of twttr. There, the engagement buttons were also hidden away completely in conversations, and they only appeared when you tapped on a Tweet to begin engagement.

But it seems that design decision got very mixed reviews, said Haider, who said that while it was easier to focus without the distraction of metrics, it also made it harder to like tweets since that required an extra tap.

My guess is that it also resulted in less engagement, even among the power users who signed up test twttr in the first place — which is likely not the end result that Twitter (or its advertisers, or others who measure and rely on engagement metrics) would want.

Replacing that tap with a swipe brings twttr in line with one of the most popular gestures in app user interfaces today, since the small touchscreens of smartphones are natural surfaces this gesture to make quick responses. My guess is that we will see yet more changes in how gestures are used in Twitter overall, since in the main Twitter app, a swipe to the left currently brings up the Camera, while a swipe to the right gets you to your Profile page.

Haider also said that early feedback, from those using twttr in English and Japanese, included a clear endorsement of the new threaded layout for conversations. This made them “easier to follow” and let readers see more replies.

The old layout had also collapsed side-conversations that branch out from the main Tweet, giving you the option either of expanding them to see more replies by way of a “Show more” button, or continuing to scroll to see more replies to the main Tweet without confusing the two.

Above: The old twttr app included too many “Show more” buttons

But some had complained that in an especially noisy conversation, the “show more” buttons appeared too much, serving the exact opposite of their intention: they ended up distracting from the flow of conversation. And if you were using the “dark mode” that was running in twttr, it was hard to follow the shading on replies (something we also highlighted in our initial review of the new app).

These issues are now getting addressed with more nuanced shading on replies that appears more clearly in dark mode, and it also seems that Twitter will be playing with the number of “Show more” buttons in threads – which have now been relabeled as “Show Replies.”

Above: the new build of twttr includes more compact replies, lines between conversations, and “Show replies” buttons, which are justified along with the conversion; previously, the “Show more” buttons had been centered.

Another interesting addition brings to light something that Twitter had already been experimenting with in its original app: the appearance of labels for the original tweeter and those that indicate who you follow, to better organize what you might want to see or know as the reader. (Twitter more recently switched its “original tweeter” labels to read “Author.”)

The original twttr app rolled out without these labels. Now that’s changing.

In the new twttr build, “Author” is now included – but instead of a big, gray label, it’s just small, red text.

This still doesn’t look quite right as the text appears underneath the Twitter user’s name. It makes more sense to have labels appear off to the side of a name, instead of interrupting the conversation – as on Reddit, for example.

Above: the red “Author” label in the new twttr build

Similarly, the new twttr app also has “Following” labels to indicate which people in conversation threads are people you follow on Twitter. These labels, however, are in blue.

Above: blue “Following” labels and red “Author” labels identify tweeters you need to know

Parity between Twitter and twttr is something of a theme here, since Twitter has also made some other changes to bring features in the latter up to date with newer changes in the main app.

As noted above, that includes adding in updated, Snapchat-like camera features; and more nuanced Dark Mode that includes a darker, battery-saving black and other customizations. You are now also able to see profile previews in twttr without navigating away from the flow of conversation (something Twitter has been testing in the main iOS app).

Above: profile previews in the new twttr app

All in all, the picture that this paints for Twitter (and twttr) is that the app and wider platform still remain very much in flux. The company says that it will be “many months” before anything goes from test to full launch, which is not a bad thing when you’re on a mission not just to grow usage, but to keep people around for longer.

We’re still waiting (but not holding our breath) to see how and if twttr gets used for other kinds of changes that transcend user interface — such as as changing the mechanics around how to report abuse and manage your overall content experience on the app.

As more people flock to Twitter to get their opinions heard, and Twitter continues to sign up third parties to bring in a wider range of media into the app, transforming not just the application of its mechanics, but the whole reason you may be using Twitter in the first place, there is a lot of work to do in both.

This article was updated after original publication. An earlier version implied swiping offered access to other engagements, it’s for likes only. Sara Haider is Twitter’s director of product management, not head of product; we regret the error.

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo