TikTok tests an Instagram-style grid and other changes

Short-form video app TikTok, the fourth most downloaded app in the world as of last quarter, is working on several new seemingly Instagram-inspired features — including a Discover page, a grid-style layout similar to Instagram Explore, an Account Switcher, and more.

The features were uncovered this week by reverse-engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong, who published screenshots of these features and others to Twitter.

A TikTok spokesperson declined to offer further details on the company’s plans, but confirmed the features were things the company is working on.

“We’re always experimenting with new ways to improve the app experience for our community,” the spokesperson said.

The most notable change uncovered by Wong is one to TikTok’s algorithmically generated “For You” page. Today, users flip through each video on this page, one by one, in a vertical feed-style format. The updated version instead offers a grid-style layout, which looks more like Instagram’s Explore page. This design would also allow users to tap on the videos they wanted to watch, while more easily bypassing those they don’t. And because it puts more videos on the page, too, the change could quickly increase the amount of input into TikTok’s recommendation engine about a user’s preferences.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

Another key change being developed is the addition of a “Discover” tab to TikTok’s main navigation.

The new button appears to replace the current Search tab, which today is labeled with a magnifying glass icon. The Search section currently lets you enter keywords, and returns results that can be filtered by users, sounds, hashtags or videos. It also showcases trending hashtags on the main page. The “Discover” button, meanwhile, has a people icon on it, which hints that it could be helping users find new people to follow on TikTok, rather than just videos and sounds.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This change, if accurately described and made public, could be a big deal for TikTok creators, as it arrives at a time when the app has gained critical mass and has penetrated the mainstream. The younger generation has been caught up in TikTok, finding the TikTok stars more real and approachable than reigning YouTubers.  TikTokers and their fans even swarmed VidCon this month, leading some to wonder if a paradigm shift for online video was soon to come.

A related feature, “Suggested Users” could also come into play here, in terms of highlighting top talent.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Getting on an app’s “Suggested” list is often key to becoming a top creator on the platform. It’s how many Viners and Twitter users initially grew their follower bases, for instance.

However, TikTok diverged from Instagram with the testing of two other new features Wong found which focused on popularity metrics. One test shows the “Like” counts on each video on the Sounds and Hashtags pages, and another shows the number of Downloads on the video itself, in addition to the Likes and Shares.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This would be an interesting change in light of the competitive nature of social media. And its timing is significant. Instagram is now backing away from showing Like counts, in a test running in a half dozen countries. The company made the change in response to public pressure regarding the anxiety that using its service causes.

Of course, in the early days of a social app, Like counts and other metrics are tools that help point users to the breakout, must-follow stars. They also encourage more posting as users try to find content that resonates — which then, in turn, boosts their online fame in a highly trackable way.

TikTok is also taking note of how integrations with other social platforms could benefit its service, similar to how the Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger apps have offered features to drive traffic to one another and otherwise interoperate.

A couple of features Wong found were focused on improving connections with social apps, including one that offered better integration with WhatsApp, and another that would allow users to link their account to Google and Facebook.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A few other changes being tested included an Instagram-like Account switcher interface, a “Liked by Creator” comment badge, and a downgrade to the TikCode (QR code) which moves from the user profile the app’s settings.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Of course, one big caveat here with all of this is that just because a feature is spotted in the app’s code, that doesn’t mean it will launch to the public.

Some of these changes may be tested privately, then scrapped entirely, or are still just works in progress. But being able to see a collection of experiments at one time like this — something that’s not possible without the sort of reverse engineering that Wong does — helps to paint a larger picture of the direction an app may be headed. In TikTok’s case, it seems to understand its potential, as well as when to borrow successful ideas from others who have come before it, and when to go its own direction.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/19/tiktok-tests-an-instagram-style-grid-and-other-changes/
via Superb Summers

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Twitter tests a new way to label replies

Twitter is testing a new way to make conversation threads easier to follow, with the launch of a new test that labels notable replies with special icons. If the original poster replies somewhere in the thread, their tweet will have a small microphone icon next to their profile picture. Other tweets may be labeled, as well — including those from users who were mentioned in the original tweet and replies from people you’re already following on Twitter.

These will be labeled with the at symbol (@) and a small person icon with a checkmark by it, respectively.

The new test is the latest in a series of experiments Twitter has been running focused on making its product easier to use, particularly when conversations around a tweet become lengthy.

At the beginning of this year, the company first began a test where it labeled the original poster in a conversation thread as the “Original Tweeter.” That may have been a bit too confusing for some, because a few months later, Twitter changed it to “Author.” It then also added two other labels, for people who were mentioned in the original tweet, and those replies from people you’re following.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

These, however, were text labels — meaning they took up valuable screen space on small mobile devices. They also cluttered up the already text-heavy interface with more distracting text to read.

The new icons don’t have that problem. But they’re also small and light gray and white in color, which makes them hard to see. In addition, their meaning isn’t necessarily clear to anyone who doesn’t hang around online forums like Reddit, for example, where it’s common to use a microphone to showcase the original poster’s follow-up comments.

It’s also unclear why Twitter thinks users are clamoring to see this information. Highlighting the original poster is fine, I guess, but the other labels seem extraneous.

While this is a minor change, it’s one of many things Twitter is tweaking in the hopes of making its service simpler and more approachable. It’s also running an experimental prototype app called twttr where it’s trying out new ideas around threaded conversations, like using color-coded replies or branching lines to connect tweets and their responses.

A lot of these changes feel a little unnecessary. Twitter isn’t as difficult to understand as the company believes it is.

At the end of the day, it’s a way to publish a public status update and reply to those others have posted. That’s its core value proposition — not live streaming video, not its clickable newsreels it calls “Moments,” and not its article bookmarking tools. Those are useful and fun additions, sure, but optional.

Instead, Twitter’s challenges around user growth aren’t because the service is overly complex, but because a public platform like this is rife for issues around online bullying and abuse, disinformation and propaganda, hate speech, spambots, and everything else that an unmoderated forum would face.

Twitter tests are live now, but not be showing for all users.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/19/twitter-tests-a-new-way-to-label-replies/
via Superb Summers

Twitter to attempt to address conversation gaps caused by hidden tweets

Twitter’s self-service tools when it comes to blocking content you don’t want to see, as well as a growing tendency for users to delete a lot of the content they post, is making some of the conversations on the platform look like Swiss cheese. The company says it will introduce added “context” on content that’s unavailable in conversations in the next few weeks, however, to help make these gaps at least less mystifying.

There are any number of reasons why tweets in a conversation you stumble upon might not be viewable, including that a poster has a private account, that the tweet was taken down due to a policy violation, that it was deleted after the fact or that specific keywords are muted by a user and present in those posts.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Twitter’s support account notes that the fix will involve providing “more context” alongside the notice that tweets in the conversation are “unavailable,” which, especially when presented in high volume, doesn’t really offer much help to a confused user.

Last year, Twitter introduced a new process for adding additional context and transparency to why an individual tweet was deleted, and it generally seems interested in making sure that conversations on the platform are both easy to follow, and easy to access and understand for users who may not be as familiar with Twitter’s behind-the-scenes machinations.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/19/twitter-to-attempt-to-address-conversation-gaps-caused-by-hidden-tweets/
via Superb Summers