Mike Isaac

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In a Bid for Accessibility, Twitter Updates Its Discovery Engine

Twitter’s is a tough challenge; as a platform with its own language, idiosyncrasies and methods of browsing, it’s difficult for the average newcomer to get used to the ecosystem and find new sources of content. Especially compared with competitors like Facebook.

Twitter obviously wants to change that. In that vein, the company launched a reimagined Discovery engine on Tuesday morning, updating its “personalization signals” to better include content that you actually care about.

So, for example, specific trending tweets or topics that are popular among the people you follow will surface more easily inside of the discovery tab, making them more readily available for users to find new items of interest. But if you’re a Twitter newcomer, the new engine can point you to other Twitter users you aren’t following, beefing up your stream and thus increasing the site’s stickiness.

Also part of the pitch: Twitter is trying to situate individual tweets within a broader social context — something very difficult for the service to do, given its free-for-all nature. Unlike Facebook — which has Timeline and its own river to essentially create a running narrative of everything that’s going on in your Facebook-ian little world — tweets are disparate, floating around in the ether and waiting for users to discover them.

And with Twitter’s user base at 130 million, sending out upwards of 340 million tweets per day, that’s a lot of room for messages to get lost. Thus far, Storify — a company that Twitter doesn’t own — has done a good job of tweet curation, while as Googler Hunter Walk smartly notes in a recent blog post, Flipboard and ReadItLater also do this very well, and would prove fine acquisition targets.

It’s yet another of Twitter’s series of steps to explain itself to newcomers. Take December’s complete redesign of the site and service, where Chairman Jack Dorsey admitted the company needed to do a better job on being accessible. “Twitter should be usable for people who know the shortcuts and also equally usable for those who don’t,” Dorsey said.

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