Twitter to Launch Redesigned Home Page (Updated)

Last Updated Jul 24, 2009 11:53 AM EDT

(Update: I received this note from Biz Stone at Twitter this morning, confirming that the new home page described below is under construction:

On Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 8:24 AM, Biz Stone wrote:
Hi David,

We're still working on it and probably will be up until the point it's ready to go live so nothing concrete to share just yet.
Thanks,
Biz

Also, the lead designer working on Twitter's new home page is none other than the multi-talented, former Wiredling and Goolger, Doug Bowman.)
(Original Post Follows.)

If you were to consider the one thing Twitter needs most at this point in its development, it would be a much more user-friendly design, especially for new users. And now, reportedly, that is coming -- next week. Company co-founder Biz Stone tells Kara Swisher in an interview that the new home page will allow users to figure out how to use the micro-blogging service before setting up an account.

"You can try it out without having to sign up, so you can get an idea of what Twitter is before you use it," Stone stated. "We need to do a better job of explaining ourselves to people who hear about us and then have no idea what do to."

Two industry experts we published last week predicted this. Reprising a key part of their conversation:

"What will come next," said the first, "will be that all the things we saw in the mid-'90s. They need to be re-invented for Twitter. Search and all other functionalities have to be developed to sit on top of Twitter, just as they once had to be invented to sit on top of the web browser."
"There needs to be a Yahoo for Twitter, i.e., the organization of all historical knowledge, the master index, the portal," noted the second.
The overall point here is that Twitter is now at the stage of its development that the Internet became circa 1994. Then, we had the web, we had browsers, we had some rudimentary tools, and a lot of upside.

As thousands upon thousands of developers have built apps to run on Twitter's open-source platform, the company has indeed spawned a feeding frenzy reminiscent of the early days of web development. As the sources above note, everything that exists for the web now neds to be re-invented to handle the real-time information revolution triggered by Twitter.

As for a business plan? Twitter investor Ron Conway recently dismissed suggestions that the company doesn't have a plan to generate profits, as he laid out for wsj.com ten separate revenue streams he thinks Twitter can/will develop:

1. Lead generation 2. Coupons 3. Analytics 4. Customer relationship management (Companies pay Twitter.)
5. Payments via real-time Web 6. Commerce
7. User authentication 8. Syndication of new ads 9. Contextual and display ads 10. Acquiring followers(Companies pay Twitter.)

People close to Twitter have indicated that all of the above are under active consideration and/or development already, and that the launch of the new home page is meant to address critical issues like the high abandonment rate (many visitors come to Twitter precisely one time) before serious monetization efforts can begin.

I am also told that Twitter's internal growth figures make the projection of an eventual audience of a billion users not as unrealistic as some of us considered it when we first learned of the projection via leaked documents published by TechCrunch recently.

In fact, overseas growth is reportedly especially robust now, in the wake of recent international events like the Iranian rebellion, that was carried out by Iranians largely via Twitter. In Japan, where adoption had been somewhat low, a pop star recently created a small sensation by suggesting a way to pronounce "Twitter" in Japanese that the population generally found amusing and attractive; growth there now appears to have begun in earnest.

But first things first. Once a screenshot of the new designed homepage becomes available, we'll review its potential to help new users find their way into the Twitterstream.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.