Mobile video uploads and group direct messages are coming to Twitter, as the social network tries to counter competitors by expanding its features.
The new video functionality will let users upload 30-second non-looping videos, which can be played directly in their timelines. The company describes it as existing “alongside”, rather than instead of, Twitter-owned six-second video service Vine.
The group direct messaging feature will allow users to carry out private chats with multiple friends away from their public timelines. The change comes after other recent improvements to DM functionality, including the ability to send pictures.
In a blogpost announcing the changes, Twitter said: “We designed our camera to be simple to use so you can capture and share life’s most interesting moments as they happen.”
“In just a few taps you can add a video to unfolding conversations, share your perspective of a live event, and show your everyday moments instantly, without ever having to leave the app. Viewing and playing videos is just as simple: videos are previewed with a thumbnail and you can play them with just one tap.”
On launch, iPhone users will also be able to upload videos from their camera roll, a feature which will roll out to Android users “shortly afterward”, according to Twitter’s product director, Jinen Kamdar.
As for the video length, he said: “We think we’ve struck a balance that makes it easier for people to share, and it’s not so long that such that people will be turned off from watching it on the timeline”.
Alongside the video uploads comes group DMs. Twitter users will be able to add multiple followers into the group chats, who can then add their own followers in turn. The company sees the feature as enabling deeper private conversations about public content on the site, rather than as a move to challenge messaging behemoths like Facebook’s WhatsApp or Google’s Hangouts.
“We don’t think of it as displacing all the messaging apps that you have on your phone,” said Kamdar, “but as a way to interact with people you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to, because your graph is so unique on Twitter.
“These are people you may not have even met, or you may not have their phone number, and we think that the fact that you can sort of have a backchannel conversation about public content that lives on Twitter is the thing that differentiates it, and that will be appealing to users.”
The decision to add new features to DMs is a major reversal from just a few months ago, when the functionality was neglected almost to the point of death. For almost all of 2014, an over-fierce anti-spam feature in the service prevented any links being sent in DM except to a select few whitelisted sites; the service has also been beset with bugs related to unread messages, and mysteriously deletes old messages at will.
Kamdar said: “We’ve just been investing heavily in the public side of Twitter for a very long time, and making sure that the timeline experience, that profiles and search, that all these things are robust, engaging, strong useful experiences.
“And now we’re investing in the private messaging space a lot more. We think it’s a really nice complement to all the work we’ve done on the public side.”
Not everyone will be happy about the announcements. Third-party app developers, already feeling the squeeze from limitations on the number of users they can have, will be locked out of the new features at launch, and may never receive full access to them.
Kamdar said that “clients and developers will be able to play videos back, and we’re going to provide information on how to do that soon. For group DM, there’s no announcement yet, but we’re looking at how to improve DM on all sides.”
Group DMs and video uploads are available on the latest version of Twitter’s mobile apps, on iOS and Android app stores now.
TWITTER 30 SECOND VIDEOS NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUR TWEETS