Furthering its quest to suddenly become every other app, Twitter is now introducing Facebook Group/Reddit subreddit-like groups called Communities that revolve around shared interests.
Twitter Communities appear to function very similarly to a direct message group with a few key differences. Each community will have its own feed that appears separately from the main timeline on the site, and for now, they’re invite-only, so administrators can control who can tweet to them. Only members of Communities can reply to or like other tweets posted to the group. However, anyone can click into a community feed and view every single tweet that’s been posted, as they’re public by default.
Communities are “self-moderated,” which is to say that deputised community moderators will have control over group membership and rules instead of being forced to rely solely on the same broken moderation process as the rest of Twitter. The first Communities available to join are broadly mundane topics like #AstroTwitter, #DogTwitter, #SkincareTwitter, and #SoleFood, though cryptocurrency is also on the list (of course). Twitter also shared a link where users can apply to form their own interest-based group.
In an announcement post, Twitter staff product manager David Regan wrote, “Some conversations aren’t for everyone, just the people who want to talk about the thing you want to talk about. When you join a Community, you can Tweet directly to that group instead of to all your followers. Only members in the same Community are able to reply and join the conversation so it stays intimate and relevant.”
“… Think of Communities as places created for conversation where the vibe and tone is set by people who share the same interests and want to have relevant conversations,” Regan added.
Communities are created and self-moderated by people on Twitter…maybe even you!
like if you’re passionate about birds of the Southern Hemisphere or soup, you could start a Community for that in the future (2/7)
— Twitter Communities (@HiCommunities) September 8, 2021
For now, only Twitter users on iOS and desktop can access Communities through a dedicated tab, although Android users are able to read tweets posted to them. Regan wrote in the post that more functionality is “coming soon.”
Twitter has long had a problem with rampant harassment and proliferation of toxic groups like white supremacists and Gamergate trolls across the site, so it’s natural to wonder whether Communities could be used to organise harassment campaigns. But private group DMs that would allow users to do so outside of public view already exist, and at least for now, Twitter is manually approving the the creation of Communities on a case-by-case basis.
The biggest ramification for Twitter will likely be that interest-based groups open up the company to more lucrative targeted advertising opportunities. As the Verge noted, Twitter has also struggled to retain new users and the new interest-based groups may help the company lure them into staying. For example, there could be Twitter Communities based around discussing a show like White Lotus or for Taylor Swift fans.
Ever since CEO Jack Dorsey narrowly survived an attempted coup by vampiric hedge fund Elliot Management last March, the company seems to have internalised that it needs to make money and rapidly pivoted from maintaining a largely static experience for users to throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks.
This has mostly taken the form of cloning popular features on other social media apps. In the past year, Twitter has rolled out Fleets, its version of the auto-deleting Stories feature ubiquitous on every other site; Spaces, a replica of audio chat app Clubhouse that now has paid ticketing; Super Follows, a Patreon-like service that allows users to charge for access to premium posts; and Twitter Blue, a subscription-based premium version of the app.
So far, it’s had mixed results. Of the above list, only Fleets and Spaces have had full-scale rollouts. Fleets proved to be utterly useless (according to Twitter’s head of product Ilya Brown, people mostly used it to promote tweets) and the company canned them in July. How successful Spaces has been is still unclear, but Clubhouse doesn’t seem to be doing so hot. Super Follows seems like the clearest path to success, but is as of yet only available on iOS.
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