Twitter has a problem that goes back to when it first started: People either "get it" or they don't. Sure Twitter boasts 300 million active users, but there are a billion more people who look at Twitter and ask, "Why would I use this?"
It doesn't help that new users face a learning curve on using the service. For example, you'll need to know how to use hashtags, retweet etiquette, fitting what you want to say into the character posting limit, the best ways to post images and more.
Not only that, some of the things you hear Twitter is good for, like getting up-to-the-second breaking news, requires a fair bit of work to get a payoff. If Twitter wants to keep growing, it needs a new way to attract people.
It may have found that way with Project Lightning, which should be rolling out later this year. So, what does it bring to the table?
Project Lightning adds a new icon to the Twitter app. Tapping the icon brings up curated events that are happening in real time.
For example, if the Super Bowl is going on, you can open the Super Bowl event and see tweets, photos and videos that Twitter users are posting about the game. A computer program assembles these and then they're filtered by an editorial team at Twitter to provide the best coverage.
When you open an event, you'll start at the beginning, even if has been going on for hours or weeks. You can then swipe through content until you catch up to the present. Once the event is done, if it has an ending point, then the event is closed and nothing else is posted.
You can "follow" events so posts from that event show up in your Twitter timeline. This is similar to following individual Twitter users, but with an event you get content from dozens or hundreds of users, including ones you might not have heard of.
Twitter plans to pick five to seven events to cover each day, and it will be based on what people are tweeting about. It's also eventually going to open up the system to companies so they can create their own events for their followers.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Katie Jacobs Stanton, who runs Twitter's global operations and is heading up the Project Lightning editorial team, sums it up well:
“We’ve seen in the past that we have so much conversation around events,” Stanton explains. “The Oscars, or the NBA Finals. Breaking news events like Ferguson. Memes like Alex From Target. … But the challenge we’ve had over the years is, although we have the world’s greatest content, it’s like having a television without a channel guide or even a remote control. There’s no way to really find it or contextualize that content. So [Project Lightning] is this beautiful vessel for us to surface great content and make it more delightful.”
You don't need to be a Twitter user, or logged in to Twitter, to view events. However, Twitter is hoping that people who view events will be inspired to join Twitter and start tweeting.
Does Project Lightning sound like something you would use? Let me know in the comments.