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Twitter: Slow To Add New Features, Even Slower To Roll Them Out

A little over a month ago I wrote about how Twitter was making some pretty major changes to Twitter.com, which included the removal of the @Mentions and Retweets folders and the implementation of new username and activity tabs, and that these would be ‘rolling out’ to all users in due course.

Twitter made this announcement on August 10. It’s getting on for five weeks later, and I’m still seeing the same old Twitter.

You?

Here’s my proof:

 

I’m sure some of you have the new new Twitter (please comment if you do, although I’ll insist on a screenshot before doffing my cap), but the rest of us – which is likely to be tens of millions of users – are still stuck in the dark ages.

This isn’t an isolated example. On May 31, Twitter’s plans to launch a photo-sharing service to rival Twitpic et al were leaked here by yours truly on AllTwitter. On June 1 Twitter confirmed this news on their official blog, but it wasn’t until August 10 that the feature became available to all users. That’s nine weeks.

Yesterday Lauren wrote about the new Twitter Web Analytics that has just been launched, and again Twitter has stated that this will “be made available to all website owners within the next few weeks”.

Uh huh. If past behaviour is taken into consideration I certainly wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.

So here’s my question: why is Twitter so slow to roll things out? Why is “the next few weeks” almost always “the next few months”? Why are they so slow to make any changes, period?

Okay, so Twitter has approximately 254 million users (and counting). But so what? Facebook has 750 million users (and counting), and when they make changes and add new features – which they do far, far more regularly than Twitter – they roll these out in a matter of days. To everyone.

Twitter likes to have these test periods with a select group of users, which is a wise move. But I’m sure Facebook does the same thing. And unless every single one of Twitter’s testing phases always unearths a myriad of nightmarish bugs – which, if true, would be worthy of another article all by itself – I’m not really sure why there’s always such a lengthy, indefinite period between announcing a new feature and actually implementing a new feature.

Here’s a thought: why not wait until you officially announce features until they are actually live for everybody? Do your testing period with your select group on the QT, but wait until you say, “Hey, cool new feature everybody!” until we all, you know, have it.

Sure, a few people will leak the news and the tech blogs will get screenshots early, but they already do this. By the bucketload. So what difference does it make? As it is now, millions of people who get told about X, Y and Z but don’t actually get to see or play with X, Y or Z for weeks or (more commonly) months, which leaves us feeling trapped between indifference and rage.

Twitter, I’m going to speak frankly for a moment. Time for a dose of cold reality. You don’t make an awful lot of big changes. You don’t announce that many new features. And you’re not exactly the fastest guns in the West. But I like you. As do a great many others.

So, on those rare but always welcome occasions when you’re ready to go live with a super-cool new feature, perhaps you could be awfully decent about it and make sure that everything is ready and working before picking up the megaphone? Before making the big announcement, and doing the big blog post? And for everybody, too. Each and every one of us. Not just a small and privileged few.

Otherwise, it’s just a great, big, continuous tease. And nobody likes that.

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