This week, in advance of their IPO, Twitter began rolling out a fairly large change to the way its central timeline looks. Photos and other attached media have begun showing up by default in the timeline. It gives the timeline a more visual feel, and it also makes ads more prominent. This was the top of my Twitter feed earlier today:
I understand that ads are necessary for these free services to operate. But the aesthetics of this change affect what Twitter is and what it does. Film Critic Hulk published an essay on BadAss Digest earlier today arguing that your "Twitter feed is going from taking something that is entirely text & idea-based to something visual and surface based. It will go from something that represents yourself and helps lead people to other content to something that presents content itself*." This is a massive change, and it's something that does damage to the idea of what Twitter is supposed to be.
Over at Quartz, Zachary M. Seward and Ritchie King argue that even though Facebook has way more ads than Twitter, this new change makes Twitter feel more ad-heavy than Facebook. This change is slowly rolling out to apps and Twitter clients. It's inescapable. And maybe it's necessary to make Twitter profitable, but it's also made Twitter feel a lot less fun and, more importantly, a lot less smart.
* I converted Film Critic Hulk's quote from all caps to regular sentence case for ease of reading. I'm not entirely proud of this decision, but I think it made sense within the context of this post.