Twitter is today releasing a new feature called “Happening Now” aimed to make its service more accessible to newcomers by highlighting groups of tweets about a topic, beginning with sports, before expanding to other areas like entertainment and breaking news. If this sounds similar to Twitter’s existing Moments feature….well, it is.
Moments, too, offers a way to learn more about a given timely topic across a number of categories, like Sports, News and Entertainment.
But Twitter Moments are a curated selection of tweets that tell a story, while Happening Now will take users to a dedicated timeline of tweets related to the event at hand. Moments are also often more visual, featuring images and videos, which is why they’ve been likenedto Twitter’s version of Snapchat or Instagram’s “Stories.”
In a demo of the new feature posted to the official @Twitter account, there are Happening Now events for MLB, NBA, and NFL games shown at the top of the Twitter timeline. You can swipe horizontally through these events, each depicted with a title (e.g. “NFL Giants vs. Buccaneers”) and an image.
When you tap into a game to see more, the current score appears at the top of a customized timeline containing real-time tweets about the event.
Twitter, of course, already offers ways to tune into live events via its network, including via its live video streams of an event, as well as by following an event’s hashtag – like #wwdc for Apple’s Developer conference, for instance.
Happening Now, though, builds on top of Twitter’s understanding of how to sort tweets associated with an event, like live video. The tweets will display algorithmically in these new custom Happening Now timelines.
What’s interesting about this new implementation is that it’s not entirely hashtag dependent, it seems.
In the brief demo Twitter shared, some tweets did reference hashtags related to the event at hand – the Giants vs. Bucs game – like #Giants, #GiantsFan, #Buccaneers, and #GoBucs. However, other tweets only referenced the match up in plain text, sometimes even vaguely. For instance, one tweet in the stream simply read: “Man oh man I am at the edge of my seat.”
This is not the first (nor likely the last) time Twitter will try to make its service more useful to newcomers who just want to follow topics, not people. Last year, it updated its homepage for logged-out users so they could dive into various categories like News, Sports, Music, Entertainment, and more; plus view Moments and other featured tweets.
It also revamped its Explore section earlier this year to help users find videos, trends, and Moments in a single tab.
Though Happening Now may appeal to newbies who don’t want to create customized lists, track hashtags, or figure out who to follow to follow relevant news on Twitter, it’s also likely to irk longtime Twitter users. Many today feel like their timelines are being invaded by ever more features they don’t need – whether that’s “While You Were Away” updates, or those that inform you of interesting links and trends Twitter thinks you’d like to know about.
With all these features and algorithmic suggestions, Twitter is losing a bit of its simplicity – ironically, in an effort to be “easier” to use.
Twitter says Happening Now is rolling out on iOS and Android starting today.