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Rumors: Will Twitter Add Automatic Image Previews to Its Streams?

tweet imagesTwitter is one of the only social networks that doesn’t clutter its interface with images and other media. Instead, the network places emphasis on users’ words, allowing them to link to other sources and include media via uploads or by sharing links that automatically include a click-through Twitter Card media preview. This all may change, according to The Next Web.

Currently, when you attach an image or any other media to a tweet, your followers have to click to expand your tweet before they can view a preview of your media. It looks like Twitter might be thinking about changing this, though, to make previews automatically appear in users’ streams, without clicking to expand. Automatic image previews have been spotted by users in their Twitter streams. Here are screenshot comparisons of feeds with image previews vs those without, posted by The Next Web:

Comparisons of Twitter with image previews vs without

According to The Next Web, the previews have only been spotted in users’ own tweets, not in tweets of the users they follow. Perhaps this is Twitter’s way of rolling the feature out gradually, without causing annoyance. Or maybe is just testing the feature.

 

How Automatic Previews Could Alter Twitter

It seems that automatic image previews could be the latest of Twitter’s move to make its network more media-friendly. Following their announcement of Twitter Analytics for all, automatic image previews could encourage brands to post more striking, visual content to Twitter. But what does this mean for Twitter culture?

Facebook gives us enough problems by allowing automatic image previews in the News Feed, as this creates a user bias toward image-based content over word-heavy content. Right now, without image previews, Twitter makes all content fair game for clicks, and I fear automatic image previews could destroy that. Users already compete for engagement on Twitter, a network so saturated with posts it’s difficult to remain at the top of your followers’ radar. Incorporating image previews would mean that users would practically be forced to attach images to all of their tweets in order to make their posts as appealing as others’. This could lead to a downward spiral in the quality of the Twitter stream, as previews of images and other media could make the stream feel crowded. Down the line, if Twitter officially incorporates this feature for all users in all tweets, I’d be curious to see if it would indeed make the stream harder to follow.

To me, automatic image previews seem like Twitter taking a step back in the social media timeline, changing their innovative interface for something more common. What do you think about automatic image previews in Twitter streams?

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