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Twitter update focuses on private communications

Thursday - 12/12/2013, 4:01am  ET

twitterDM640.png
Twitter, known for its public tweets,is now focusing on private messaging (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Twitter takes conversation private

Technology analyst Larry Magid says Twitter's focus on Direct Messsages serves two purposes.

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WASHINGTON - Twitter has become a social media giant primarily based on the premise that 140 characters or fewer can quickly reach a huge audience.

This week's Twitter update, which facilitates sharing photos in Direct Messages, shows the micro-blogging site also wants to provide a way to communicate without anyone else knowing.

"They're gradually moving themselves into a platform for interpersonal, potentially private conversations," says Larry Magid, technology analyst for CBS News, CNET and Forbes.

The Twitter update moves the Messages icon to the home page of the mobile app, for iOS and Android, making it much easier to send the Twitter-equivalent to an email.

Several other apps, including Snapchat, Line and WhatsApp, have become popular for providing private messaging between two or several users.

Magid believes Twitter's change in focus reflects some users' desire for privacy, in the world of social media.

"A lot people are very nervous about being out there in public and are going to be reluctant to use Twitter if they feel that everybody could potentially see what they're writing and it could be around forever," says Magid. "It's sort of part of your personal record."

But Magid also believes Twitter's tweak is for business reasons.

"Texting of course is extremely popular, as is email, and if Twitter can capture part of that market, that's to Twitter's benefit," says Magid.

Even though the messages are private, Magid believes Twitter can monetize the service.

"They can still display ads around (the Direct Message) and can also capture information about a person's interests and habits, hopefully respecting privacy while they're doing that."

With the increased role granted to Messages, the Discover function has been replaced on the Home screen.

Twitter's new interface is now swipeable on mobile devices.

After touching Timeline, the user can swipe left once to reach the Discover page, or twice to reach Activity, which includes Trending - what Twitter users are discussing publicly.

In addition to the mobile iOS and Android platforms, the Twitter DM update is also available on TweetDeck for Web, Chrome, and PC, and for Mac, once it's approved by the Mac App Store.

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