On the TODAY Show Tuesday, Twitter announced two big cosmetic changes. It updated its iPad app to be more like the simple mobile versions that launched in December. It also added a header photo to profile pages to give you more personal flair. While these updates are cheery and consistent across devices, they're symptomatic of the company's misguided effort to control the user experience.
I've argued in the past that Twitter is imposing the wrong kind of control over its apps and services. It's squashing the kinds of tools that made Twitter such a great medium for instant communication, and instead it's turning into a media-rich entertainment service. Today's updates demonstrate that clearly. Instead of layered views of multiple accounts and lots of tweets to browse, now it's all about promoted content and large images.
You can add a header version from the desktop website or the mobile and iPad apps. It’s a nice addition aesthetically, and it highlights photos from the profile gallery of your recent photos. It does reduce the number of recent tweets you can see at a glance, though.
The iPad app now offers the same glorified Web view that the mobile app has. The view doesn’t translate quite as well on the large screen. It appears more standardized, a change Twitter has promised to enforce, but consequently, it looks too stretched out on the iPad. Moreover, the profile pictures are not up to Retina resolution, so they look blurry on the new iPad.
At least the new iPad app doesn’t have the weird trays anymore. The old version was so hard to navigate that it hurt your finger. The new apps may be boring and overly focused on the “discover” tab, where Twitter pushes promoted material to you, but at least they’re consistent. Twitter didn’t have much of a foothold in demanding consistency from third-party developers before it focused on consistency itself.