The new release of Twitter has, predictably, put the Web in an uproar. The Internet pundits have been focused on the new UI, with many rehashing two tired themes which amount to who moved my cheese, and utterly fail to grasp the bigger picture, which is a strategic shift in the product itself.
Twitter has shifted to a product posture that puts consumption ahead of production. With this release Twitter has made the leap from “micro-blogging” to discovery engine. You can see it happening with the reduced prominence and location of the composer box on the web version, and the increased prominence of the discovery UI. It’s an acknowledgement that many people who use Twitter don’t actually use it for expression, but rather information gathering. This is an important shift, and something that people who are the publishers will have to get used to.
When half of your daily users don’t Tweet, but just login to see what’s happening, you have to make that discovery easier. And I think this new release is a step in the right direction. As for the criticism? It’s myopic and self-centered and fundamentally misses the broader implications and use cases of the Twitter user base at large.