What if Twitter introduced native chats?

# Twitter chats are an extremely popular, and many say powerful, way to utilise Twitter for specific topic discussion and it is, perhaps, surprising that the network has not made strides into this area. What if Twitter chats went native?

Twitter ChatI have made no secret of my recent personal dissatisfaction with Twitter, not as a product but as a medium in which I can express myself and obtain sufficient social value.

In case you missed it: I can't.


It was over five years ago that I first said "Twitter is a facilitator":

It facilitates connections, friendships, citizen journalism but what is really doesn't facilitate is conversations in situ.

Twitter Chats became the de facto way to get round this but there has been a lot of noise in certain quarters about chat applications closing because they were "killed" by changes to the Twitter API.

Twitter Chat applications manage topics by focusing on a single hashtag, only displaying tweets with that tag and then auto-appending the tag to any tweets you make from within it - this is reminiscent of my original ideas for Twitter channels.

I'm still of the opinion that Twitter needs to move beyond the core feed experience and, unlike my suggestion of integrating Branch, need not sacrifice simplicity to do so.

In house

DiscoverMuch to the chagrin of third-party developers, Twitter has a history of taking user-built functionality and incorporating it into the service. Hashtags, retweets, cashtags, URL shortening, an image upload service - the list goes on - all went in-house after proving to be popular with users.

Social discovery is key for social growth.

We have seen iterations to the #discover tab and search improvements (although neither were as ground-breaking as they might have been) but discovery and focus is still an issue.

Twitter tested Event Pages which promised to be an effective way of natively following a single topic but these disappeared, never to be heard from again.


video recordingWith Vine and the recent announcement of TV ad targeting it is apparent that the company feels video is a good direction to take its service but what about a potential next step: video chat?

Skype, Google+ Hangouts and Facebook Video Calling all point towards a common destination for social with Hangouts really serving to prove the popularity of multi-participant, face-to-face communication which has yet to be matched elsewhere.

Could video chat work within the context of Twitter? Is there room within the established market for another video conferencing service? I believe so, yes as heavy Twitter users would probably relish being able to enhance their connections, just as Google+ users do, without having to leave the network.

Could Twitter purchase a company such as ooVoo which already supports multi-participant chat, recording and a Facebook app?

Native Twitter Chats?

As stated above, chats are an extremely popular way to focus on specific interests whilst working within the Twitter environment and I feel it is a prime example of user-led functionality that could be incorporated into the network.

As third-party applications remove the conversation from the stream, any solution would need to emulate this so what if Event Pages could be reborn as native chats?

To extend this idea, what if Twitter allowed for creation of scheduled "chat events" with reminders and notifications?

What if Twitter introduced "Chats on Air" with core participants in a group video chat sat at the top of the event page while others contribute, as at present, via tweets?

Live simpleKeeping chats limited to tweets would maintain consistency with the "simple" mantra championed by management which would, no doubt, preclude the inclusion of Branch-like discussions and long form posting despite the acquisition of Posterous in March of last year.


Building Twitter communities is currently big news with services such as Nestivity giving users ways to engage followers in a more meaningful fashion. Providing native chats, with or without video, would serve to enhance community building whilst negating the need for users to go off-site.

Images by derekbruff, swanksalot, Katie@!

  1. While we were bothered by the content, the visceral social experience that Chatroulette represented was compelling. We loved the serendipity of the Next button, and set out to build a service that would allow the promise of the Next button to be realized. A lot of our effort went into matching users based on location, age, and gender in real time while building out a gaming-platform to give them something to do beyond chat. Since launching in January 2011, we've grown to 750,000 video chats a day with 100 times less nudity than Chatroulette a year ago.

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