Looks are everything for Twitter as it goes in search of profits

More than 190 million visitors per month isn't bad for a web phenomenon that is widely criticised for being inconsequential, ephemeral and narcissistic. But despite the huge popularity of Twitter, which scores 370,000 new users every day, making money out of its customers has proved more of a challenge – until yesterday, when the social network unveiled a new look that will have advertisers salivating.

The changes, which will hit all users' screens over the next few weeks, see a two-pane layout replacing the straightforward list of tweets; the second pane can perform a number of functions, but the most significant is displaying media content relating to that tweet without the user having to visit another website.

Yesterday's launch was, according to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, "not for the sake of advertisers". But the redesign will excite marketeers traditionally inhibited by the site's stripped-back look. Twitter may finally be on the brink of demonstrating why $160m [£103m] of venture capital has been ploughed into the company so far.

Twitter's popularity – much like Google's – has been built on its simplicity. You post a message, or a link to a website, and anyone bothering to pay attention will see it. If they want to, they can reply. Easy. But as Twitter has grown and new uses have been found for it by individuals and organisations, there has been a heavy reliance on third-party services that help to organise and display Twitter-related data in more user-friendly ways.

Applications such as TweetDeck or Seesmic help fit more information on one screen; it could be an image-hosting service like yFrog or Twitpic; or devices that shortened web addresses such as is.gd that help squeeze long URLs into Twitter's 140-character limit. In effect, a whole industry has grown up around enhancing Twitter and addressing its shortcomings. Williams himself admitted to shortcomings at yesterday's launch, and this revamp is a bold attempt to persuade the estimated 22 per cent of users who tweet without visiting the site itself that it is time to come back.

No wonder advertisers are eager; thus far, marketing messages on the service have been restricted to "promoted tweets" (the opportunity for a company's tweet to appear at the top of Twitter search results) and "sponsored trends" (corporate branding of a topic that's getting a lot of attention). Even these have been shown to be powerful; Coca-Cola's recent foray into sponsored trends saw them achieve 86 million page impressions in 24 hours.

Twitter users are regarded as less passive than the average web user, and with more screen "real estate" now available to advertisers, their engagement is predicted to become more intense.

As the new-look Twitter gains traffic and collects more data about our clicking habits and interests, it will become even more valuable in the corporate world as advertisements can be targeted at users more specifically. The only danger Twitter faces is the risk of upsetting a significant proportion of its users who aren't concerned about commercial pressures on the company, and would rather have an ad-free experience.

Facebook's past blunders in particular have shown that our tolerance of prominent marketing messages can be low. Twitter has always prided itself on a gently-gently approach; the new-look site will be introduced slowly, with the opportunity to switch to the old interface if we wish. But a Twitter service that's so light on advertising can't last for ever; after all, a business without an income isn't a business at all.

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Social Media Application Developer*** or Graduate - Permanent - Surrey - £25k-£40k

    £25000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    IT Business Analyst - London - £35,000

    £35000 per annum + 25 days holiday, pension & further benefits: Ashdown Group:...

    Datacentre Consultant (Infrastructure Consultant, HyperV) £45k

    £45000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Datacentre Consultant (Datacentre,...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past