Six Things You Need to Know About the New Twitter

"Evolve or die." That's what Twitter CEO Evan Williams said information networks like his must do to stay relevant in today's revolutionary media world, and Twitter is evolving in a big way.

Last week the company began the gradual rollout of a redesigned website that aims to give users more information in less time, without them ever leaving The most prominent change is that the site now features two panes, one for the traditional tweet stream and a new "details pane" to get more information for readers about a particular tweet or source.

Only a small percentage of randomly chosen users currently can see the #newtwitter -- that's the hashtag the company adopted to promote the site and gather feedback from users -- but Twitter plans to finish the deployment by the end of the year. Here are the six things you need to know about the new framework before it's widely available:

1. Videos and photos will be viewable directly on the site. Twitter built its reputation on a foundation of 140 characters or less. That means no multimedia frills. The best tweeters can do is embrace URL shorteners like to drive traffic to YouTube, Flickr and other sites. The new Twitter will change the broadcast equation. Now users will be able to open the details pane to see and watch the multimedia elements linked in their tweet streams.

2. Conversations will be easier to follow. Twitter is a great tool for engaging other users in conversation. But it hasn't been so great for the "tweeps" who see snippets of those conversations sporadically thrust into their tweet streams. The details pane will include retweets and replies for each tweet, making it possible to follow threaded discussions without jumping between user profiles to connect the conversational dots.

3. More information about Twitter users will be readily available. One of Twitter's strengths is its ability to connect people with common interests so they can share insights, ideas, tips and information. Another feature of the details pane will make the process of identifying those people less tedious. Clicking on any user's Twitter handle will reveal both basic profile information and recent tweets so users can quickly gauge whether to follow that account. For each account, users will be able to choose whether to allow retweets to appear in their streams or to send tweets to their mobile phones.

4. Users will get glimpses of emerging and popular themes. Hashtags -- words or phrases within tweets that are preceded by the character # -- streamline the search process on Twitter and become trending topics when mentioned by enough users. Tweeters click the hashtags to see other tweets on the topic, but doing so takes them to a separate page. The new Twitter will offer sample tweets for each hashtag in the details pane. Readers still will be able to click the hashtags to see more related tweets.

5. Search functions will be more prominent and user-friendly. Besides adding hashtagged tweets to the details pane, the redesigned Twitter will improve the search process by making the search box larger and moving it from the right sidebar to a toolbar at the top of the site. Twitter also will offer filtering options, such as searching for tweets based on your location, and saved searches will appear in a more noticeable drop-down menu. (See Search Engine Land's review of the new Twitter for more details and helpful screen shots.)

6. Advertisers will gain visibility for "sponsored tweets." As noted in Advertising Age, companies (or politicians or anyone else who wants to sponsor tweets) will be able to see in the details pane how many people responded to a tweet or who retweeted their information, all without leaving the tweet. They also will be able to showcase their own photos or videos in an effort to generate online buzz.

"There's a world of instant information flowing through Twitter," CEO Williams told Bloomberg in an interview about the redesign. "People usually only see a very small segment of that, so we're trying to reveal more of that when it's relevant and contextually related."

The redesign has many critics, including those who argue that third-party clients like TweetDeck for posting and reading tweets remain more versatile than The company also suffered a public relations blow days after unveiling the new Twitter: A hacker exploited a security flaw at The attack was unrelated to the redesign, yet it prompted tweeters to warn their followers to use third-party clients instead of

But Twitter fans shouldn't rush to judgment before the new Twitter is fully deployed. No one knows Twitter better than the engineers who built it, and the redesign has promising new features that could benefit users and advertisers alike.

@DavidAll is the president of the David All Group and publisher of the Capitol Hill Tweet Watch Report.