Friday New Tools Feature: Next Steps for Twitter

The creators of Twitter have admitted that they are still learning about how people use their service. It seems that they have learned some important lessons, because they are in the process of adding several important new features to Twitter that should significantly improve the user experience and expand functionality.

The first big addition is the inclusion of lists into both twitter.com and the Twitter API. This is a simple concept, but will help a lot with trying to manage the often-overwhelming flow of information that results when you begin following more than 50-100 people (depending on how compulsively you check for updates). The basic idea is that you'll be able to organize the people you follow into lists, publically visible by default, allowing you to categorize and prioritize your contacts, and helping other users sift through them to find people they may be interested in following. It's also great news that this will be built into the API, because like many Twitter users, I'd much rather interact with the service through a third-party application like TweetDeck, Twhirl, or Tweetie than through twitter.com.

Another key improvement to the API is the addition of geolocation. Of course, there are several Twitter services that already support geolocation, but with the addition of this feature into the Twitter API, it is likely to take off in a much bigger way. I've written before about location-based services, but the main problem with many of them is that not that many people use them. Not all that many of my friends use Twitter, either, but way more than Loopt or Foursquare, for example. And location awareness seems like a natural for Twitter, which is very often used on mobile devices.

Beyond the obvious boons, like the ability to see where your friends are tweeting from at any given moment, this will also open up some other interesting possibilities. For example, see the new app Buzzd, which just hit the app store recently. As TechCrunch explains, Buzzd

will bring up a list of venues close to you that are currently popular based on people talking about them on Twitter and Buzzd. It also uses some location data pulled from Twitter. Right now, that data is pulled from users’s Twitter profiles, so it is imprecise, but with the Geolocation API... that will soon change.

There are endless other possibilities... for example, you could map chatter about political candidates in certain areas. Once location-tagging becomes more widespread, these kinds of applications will become increasingly useful in reality, and not just as fun tech demos.

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