Twitter has become a powerful tool for influence, with hashtag trends even becoming international news. From important movements like #BlackLivesMatter to conspiracy nonsense like #Pizzagate – it’s great for getting your message out to the people you want to hear it (even if your message is silly).
Now, Twitter has released a new, low-data version of their site called Twitter Lite that offers the Twitter experience but at much faster speeds. So why isn’t this the new Twitter, and the old version now referred to as ‘Twitter Heavi’ or something?
Twitter Lite is a new version of Twitter and essentially strips away the bells and whistles to minimise the data required to run it. It’s designed for use on mobile browsers and saves an average of 40% of the data usage, with an additional feature that can further reduce this to 70%.
The decision, according to Twitter’s Vice President of Product, Keith Coleman, was made in order to expand Twitter’s user base, which currently falls far behind Facebook. Coleman thinks the data-heavy app was too demanding for countries with slower internet/mobile data speeds, and the low data requirement will open up a potential for brands to engage with new audiences in countries like India, the Philippines, and Indonesia, among others. But is this a step forwards or backwards for Twitter?
Matt, our director of creative technology, thinks the move is a step back, but in a good way: back to what made Twitter a sensation in the first place.
“Twitter’s business demands often lead to new features (whether they are useful or not) and these new features often lead to a more bloated codebase. This lite version strips away some of these features so the experience isn’t as rich, but Twitter’s strength, in my opinion, comes from its original simplicity – 140 character message sharing. This Lite version harkens back to that original business plan.”
But Matt isn’t convinced that Twitter Lite should solely target countries with slow mobile data speeds. “As advanced as mobile data networks have become, they still aren’t as responsive as hard line broadband. I wonder why this isn’t the default mobile experience for Twitter? I hope it starts a trend for fast, data-light experiences from other social networks, but somehow doubt it.”
Dave, our co-founder and tweet enthusiast, agrees with Matt. “Why isn’t this the default mobile experience for Twitter!? ‘Twitter Lite’ does away with things I don’t need like photo editing and live streaming and is so much faster to use. It makes Twitter a joy to use, even over a fast connection. This increase in speed creates a perception of increased performance and, subconsciously, I think it bolsters Twitter’s brand. Some apps are practically obese these days and this diet version of Twitter should be a stand alone application you can choose as a default.”
However, the new Twitter isn’t all good news. As the Social Media Executive at Dusted, the main reason I’d stick with the standard version of Twitter is the ‘moments’ feature, which I find very useful when looking up current events and the latest news. The Lite version doesn’t have this feature. Businesses have recently begun to create their own ‘moments’ that can be seen by their entire audience, but they won’t be able to target users in this way on Twitter Lite. Most businesses would prefer the standard version of Twitter – there are more creative ways to advertise and make announcements. Rather than just being able to write a regular tweet, brands can utilise polls, ‘moments’, and GIFs to engage with users.
To say one version of Twitter is better than the other would be redundant because it depends on who you are and what you want to achieve. There will be many users utilising the back-to-roots, data-light mobile site for speed and convenience, but entire markets and industries have made the features on Twitter integral to how they engage. Twitter also has a lot of branding associated with its features and tools, and they are unlikely to want to brush them to the side permanently for the sake of Twitter Lite, especially when corporate users will want to be able to use those tools to fulfil their objectives.
However, by allowing users to decide what kind of experiences they want to have, Twitter has taken a good step forward. Other social media companies might want to follow suit by offering users the freedom to deactivate specific, data-rich features that hinder the user experience. Prioritising load speed over features is already popular with users, as shown by the prominence and popularity of AMPs from Google.
However, as Matt mentioned, we doubt it’ll happen.