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With Their New ‘People’ Tab, Is Twitter About To Start Categorizing Users?

Twitter has made some cosmetic alterations to the profile pages of users, adding new buttons and making some adjustments to copy. They’ve also tweaked the pages that show the people we’re following.

Which has made me wonder: is Twitter about to change the way users are managed on the network?

At this point I feel obliged to say that this is complete speculation on my part, inspired by this post on Quora. But the OP might be on to something.

Here it comes. If you’re logged out of Twitter and visit somebody’s profile, you see a slightly different page than when you’re logged in. On the right sidebar, below the data about that profile’s tweets, following, followers and lists, and underneath the sign-up pitch is some copy that says, “Curious how [USER] uses Twitter?”

Below this is a button that reads: “Discover who [USER] follows.” Click on that, and you go to that user’s following page (which is the same whether you’re logged in or out). For example, here’s mine:

A lot of this copy is new. Now this is where it gets interesting – on that following page is a little tab that says ‘People’ and a number showing your total number of followers. The URL is twitter.com/#!/username/following.

The People tab is linked, and when you click on it you move to a new page – twitter.com/#!/username/following/people. At the moment, the information you see from page to page is identical, but that doesn’t make any sense. Why link two different pages showing the exact same thing? And how does a big list of profiles satisfy my curiosity as to how anyone is ‘using’ Twitter?

The page showing the people following you (here’s mine) also has the People tab, but when you click on that you just get re-routed back to Twitter.com. Which is probably a bug.

So, here comes the speculation: Twitter is about to start categorizing users.

How and why they’ll do this is completely up for debate. But they might start with just a few tabs, perhaps People, Brands, News and Business, for example. Or maybe just People and Everything Else (more on that in a moment).

I mean, they’re already kind of doing this in the ‘Browse Interests’ section of their who to follow recommendations, and have already categorized Twitter profiles therein. So, it would seem to be a fairly simple process to port that structure over to our following pages.

But where it gets pretty complex is that categorizing everybody on Twitter is extremely difficult. We’re talking hundreds of millions of accounts, and unless they keep the labels extremely broad it’s going to be very tough to pin everybody down into a nice little box. It might have to be as basic as ‘People’ for real, actual individuals, and ‘Non-People’ for everything else. Albeit hopefully with a more pleasing title.

But that still presents some issues. For example, where do you put bots? What about a company account that’s run by a single person? What about if I don’t agree with where I’ve been filed away?

Hopefully they won’t decide to break down the People tab any further as that’s where it could get really awkward, especially if the best they end up with is ‘Celebrities’ and ‘Proles’.

As above, this is all whim and fancy right now (and when it comes to these pitches, I’ve been right and wrong before). But something is afoot, Watson, and I very much urge you to watch this space. Or your own, as the case may be.

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