What I would do to fix Twitter

Twitter’s lack of progress in delivering new features and business models is astonishing. It’s not hard to see why there’s regular talk of bad financial results and a buyout. But at the same time, it’s an essential service for journalists and folks in other industries like tech and entertainment.

Here’s a quick list of what I would do with Twitter given the chance to try and turn it around:

– Features: get rid of the 140 character limit. Or rather, keep it as the headline, and add a body section that can contain a full post, or a longer summary with a link to the full article for sites that need onsite traffic. I must be the millionth person to ask for this, but even so, it’s still relevant. Why the hell has this not happened?

– Features: Powerful organising tools. Why on earth can’t I arrange the people and organisations I follow into some sensible structure, nested as deep as necessary? I’d like a celebrities folder, perhaps with Actors under there, and finally a link to video of Robert de Niro raging against Donald Trump. This structure would help deal with the firehose you get when you follow more than 5 people. I know you can create lists, but they are limited, and in the official client are hidden away in secret menus .

– Features: Unread marks per feed. When I open Robert de Niro’s feed, I only want to see new tweets, but with an toggle to view older ones. Now, holding unread marks on every tweet for every twitter user could be a bit of an engineering nightmare, so a simple “high water mark” of the last tweet that I read will be fine.

– Business: Paid accounts. An individual (perhaps even a celebrity) should get a free account, although some sort of paid premium account to attract celebs seems worth looking into, but businesses like media outlets who tweet every story they publish should be paying to be on Twitter.

– Business: Find a buyer in the media/publishing industry. Talk of Salesforce and Disney buying Twitter is insane – no wonder they walked away. Twitter is most valuable to media outlets and self promoters, and needs to be owned by someone in that industry.

Some people will look at this list and think the features sounds familiar, because it’s all borrowed from RSS – or at least high quality RSS clients like Reeder on iOS. And why not? RSS is excellent at dealing with a high volume of information. I am a big fan of Reeder and still use RSS heavily. Compared to Twitter, RSS is somewhat lacking in other departments, and is arguably dated. RSS is ripe to be replaced by Twitter if it could get it’s act together. And best of all, none of these features would make Twitter worse at what it’s used for now. They are complimentary.

When Google killed Google Reader back in 2013, Twitter should have been standing by to take over with a powerful platform to track news and status updates from people.

As far as I’m aware the features described above aren’t available in third party Twitter clients, but even if they are, they should be in the core product.

Come on Twitter, get it together. I’ve tried many times over the years to get into Twitter and use it regularly, but it just doesn’t work for me, and this keeps me on RSS. I can’t be the only one.

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