Twitter's Ryan Sarver Explains New-New Twitter: We Want to Focus on Simplicity

Twitter’s Director of Platform Ryan Sarver took the stage at LeWeb in Paris this morning  to discuss the latest updates Twitter announced yesterday with CrunchFund’s MG Siegler. Besides announcing updates to its web experience, Twitter also launched updated versions of its iPhone and Android apps, with a new iPad app coming soon as well. More so than just a redesign, Twitter is effectively changing the way you will use the service in the future. The reactions to this redesign are – as is expected given the scope of these changes – somewhat mixed.

Reactions to New-New Twitter

Siegler asked Sarver about the extend of these changes and the negative reviews and user reactions. Why, Siegler asked, are direct messages de-emphasized in this version, for example. According to Sarver, one of the reasons for this was tat Twitter wanted to focus on the main timeline and the ability to discover great new content and users. Direct messages, apparently, are not a feature too many of Twitter’s customers use.

Facebook and Google Compete on Features, Twitter Want to Focus on Simplicity

Talking about the story behind the New-New Twitter, Sarver pointed out that “in a world where Facebook and Google are competing on features, Twitter wants to focus on being simple.” The new version, says Sarver, is all about being fast and easy to use. Twitter, said Sarver, learned a lot from its last update. Expanded tweets, for example, was a path Twitter went on with the last update, but it didn’t drive any major engagement and needed to be rethought in this new version. In this context, Sarver also stressed that this redesign is just the beginning for Twitter

Talking about the influence of Jack Dorsey at Twitter now that he has returned to the company, Sarver agreed that Dorsey’s focus on design and product greatly influenced the design of the new product. While Biz Stone and Evan Williams have mostly withdrawn from Twitter, Jack Dorsey is obviously also working on Square right now. The relationship between Square and Twitter is, according to Sarver, symbiotic (“It’s a very positive relationship overall.”).

Onboarding New Users

Twitter’s greatest challenge now is connecting users (and especially new ones) to all the great content that is on the service already. Because of this, the new “discovery” has now become a major part of the feature. Twitter, said Sarver, wants to move new users gradually from consuming content to actually posting status updates. Discover will be, according to Sarver, one of the main features of Twitter and one of the main areas Twitter as a company will focus on in the next year or so.

Brand Pages

As for brand pages – which Twitter doesn’t call brand pages because all of these features will soon be available to all users – Sarver noted that this too is part of Twitter’s mission to connect its users with interesting content and giving them the ability to highlight their content.

Mobile Apps, TweetDeck, Lists and New Users

The updated apps, including the web apps, needed to be unified to ensure that users wouldn’t be confused. Sarver noted, though, that Twitter aims for a consistent experience while still feeling native to all the platforms it is on. Siegler also asked Sarver whether some of these decisions were driven by the need to help new users and in order to do this, said Sarver, the company had to de-emphasize some of the features that confused these new users.

TweetDeck, which was also updated yesterday, is aiming at a different audience according to Sarver. TweetDeck is, in Twitter’s view, a “Twitter for newsrooms.”

Lists, for example, aren’t a major feature in the new mobile clients. “The death of list has been greatly over-reported,” said Sarver, but it is indeed not a feature Twitter is emphasizing right now, though the company aims to make it better and easier to use.