Twitter’s slick new redesign has brought it – visually and practically – closer to China’s most dynamic microblogging platform, Sina’s (NASDAQ:SINA) Weibo. It shows, perhaps, that Sina’s rapid rate of change on its most popular service is now actually leading the way for Twitter. How the tables have turned!
More seriously, though, the two companies have a very different philosophy, so we won’t engage in the kind of “copycat” name-calling that we usually discourage. Whereas Twitter has been evolving very slowly, and espouses “simplicity,” Sina has been throwing major new features at its Weibo platform – such as social gaming accompanied by a virtual currency – in an aggressive land-grab approach that’s more typical on the Chinese web where it’s necessary to seize users before a rival does pretty much the same thing.
And so, inevitably, the fast-changing Sina Weibo service – which is up against Tencent’s (HKG:0700) microblogging site that has the same generic ‘weibo’ name – is already doing some things that can be seen in Twitter’s latest redesign this week. And that’s no bad thing. Here are five key areas where it has grown more like Weibo (all five images can be clicked to enlarge):
Customized Brand Pages
Twitter’s brand pages get the same nice redesign as all users get, and seem to have only one differentiation in terms of layout: the option to customize the long rectangle above the tweets (see the area showing the sea of sugary soda in the picture below). Weibo’s brand pages have a vastly different look to those of regular users, allowing them to embed a corporate video at the top, and lots of other tweaks. It’ll be interesting to see if Twitter relents and permits more customizations in future for its branded pages:
Embedded Videos, Photos, and GIFs
Twitter now has much better support for embedding images in the site, obviating the need for so much clicking away. Of course, a lot of third-party Twitter apps have been doing this for some time, which is why a lot of Twitter’s core users prefer desktop or web apps – such as Tweetdeck, or Echofon – to the Twitter.com page.
Weibo, meanwhile, has had these baked-in videos and images er… baked-in since its roll-out last year:
…And all those photos and GIFs will now be added into a ‘recent images’ folder on Twitter, just as Sina Weibo has been doing since a redesign earlier this summer. But Sina’s folders are more powerful, allowing you to add multiple folders, or view only your friend’s images in a highly visual stream:
Separate Page for Mentions
Twitter’s new ‘@connect’ tab finally gives all your important mentions the separate space they deserve, just like Weibo’s area for all your comments – yes, it has blog-style comment too – mentions, and retweets:
More Info in Side Panels
Finally, Twitter’s side pane now shows more information, such as suggestions as to who to follow, and some of the hottest trends. Of course, Facebook has been doing this for even longer, as part of the way it draws you in to the service:
Having said all that, I really like the redesign, and I like how it follows Twitter’s ethos whilst also adding some much-needed features.
The twitter redesign should be automatically showing-up for many people, but if not I believe you can force it to do so by downloading the updated mobile apps whilst signed-in to Twitter’s new preview page.