Twitter Has a New Thing, And It’s Called Lightning


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Remember how investors were pushing Twitter for more, more and more? Well, some of that more is happening. BuzzFeed reports a major new feature: project Lightning, which marries curation to hot events and packages them neatly in an easily viewable, easily shareable format.

When we say events, we’re using a broad term. Picture a timeline that shows you the biggest things people are tweeting about – from world-wracking news like the Nepal Earthquake to, say, the Oscars, or discussions on Donald Trump’s hair. Anything large enough to be an Internet sensation. The Twitter team takes the twitterstorms around these events, looks for the best stuff and shares it in a collection. Vines and Periscope videos are also going to be in this collection. Each tweet, picture and video in the collection will stand out, because apparently it’s designed to look more like a photo gallery than a Twitter Timeline.

Now not too long ago, Chris Sacca from Lowercase Capital blogged about some of the features he wanted to see in Twitter. Lightning is right on the money. Twitter’s reportedly building up an editorial team for this purpose – people with newsroom backgrounds, armed with data tools, picking and choosing what the world sees via Lightning. The final product can not just be viewed on the Twitter app, but also embedded into websites.

Lightning is interesting, and not just because it plays to Twitter’s strengths at being a real-time news network while cutting out its noise problem. It’s interesting because it gives Twitter control over what their users see and what they don’t, and if the feature becomes popular enough, can become a powerful advertising tool as well. Just like Facebook monetized users’ newsfeeds, Twitter can monetize events in real-time. It’s one powerful edge that Facebook and oher social networks just don’t have.

Ironically, the feature was debuted to BuzzFeed by Dick Costolo, just days before he resigned from Twitter. Perhaps he wouldn’t have had to if he’d waited until the story came out. Lightning’s been in the works for quite a while before the investor firestorm, though, and post-Costolo Twitter seems just as committed to the project as they were previously.



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