Twitter just got a visual makeover. The social media company today announced that photos and Vine videos will begin showing up automatically in users’ timelines. It may seem like a small change, but the sprinkling of photos and videos throughout user timelines will significantly alter the look and feel of Twitter, which has been heavily text-focused since it was created in 2006. Previously users had to click an individual tweet to expand it and show multimedia. Buttons for replying, retweeting and favoriting tweets, which used to be hidden until an individual tweet was highlighted, are also now permanently visible for all messages.
The changes are likely geared at making Twitter a more visual and user-friendly experience. The social network, which has 232 million monthly active users, is preparing for an expected initial public offering next week and will face rising pressure to increase both its user base and the value of its advertising business. More prominent photos could make the site more appealing to marketers, who will now know that the visual component of a promoted tweet will be widely seen by users.
Other recent changes illustrate Twitter’s shift away from being a simple, text-based messaging platform. In August Twitter began presenting conversations in chronological order via connecting blue lines, a significant departure from the reverse-chronological stream that helped define the network as a platform for instantaneous information. More and more, Twitter is implementing elements to make it more similar to the largest social network of them all, Facebook.