Twitter is suffering from slow growth, even as its revenues increase. To appeal to a larger audience and retain the users it already has, the microblogging service is already planning ways to make it easier for people to find and follow specific topics and conversations, as well as improvements to its private messaging feature.
In its earnings on Wednesday, Twitter reported a nine billion decrease in “timeline views,” Twitter’s version of pageviews. While timeline views decreased, CEO Dick Costolo said during an analyst call that they increased in quality, meaning that users were more engaged with tweets. Costolo said threaded conversations are an example of “better quality” views, as following conversations between multiple users with a thin blue line is much easier, and doesn’t require as many timeline views, or clicks on users’ profiles.
Costolo often refers to Twitter as the Internet’s town square, a place for real-time conversation about events happening around you. But, as he points out, sometimes even town squares have secrets. “When you’re walking through the town square, you often want to whisper to the person next to you,” he said.
The company overhauled its messaging experience late last year by putting direct messages front and center on both the mobile and Web applications. Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t have a standalone messaging application, but Costolo didn’t rule out the possiblity of a multi-application strategy.
“Topic-based discovery” is another key initiative Costolo mentioned several times. The idea here is to simplify the process of finding and participating in conversations on a specific topic. The company recently updated its search function on the Web to provide more targeted results, and a new “Discover” section on mobile delivers trending tweets including news and entertainment conversations.
The custom timelines feature available on Tweetdeck could also eventually debut across Twitter proper, allowing users to collect and display sets of relevant tweets and to follow events in in chronological order (the opposite of Twitter’s standard reverse chronological display).
Costolo also briefly touched on Twitter’s e-commerce opportunities. He said Twitter Cards—which feature photos, video and expanded descriptions in tweets—will be the “vehicle” with which Twitter thinks about commerce in the future. But Costolo neither confirmed nor denied recent reports that Twitter will embed a “buy button” in tweets.