The Troubling Thing About Twitter’s New Quick Bar

By  |  Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am

Something’s bothering me about Twitter for iPhone’s obtrusive, but now somewhat less obtrusive Quick Bar. It’s not the principle of adverising — ads put the bread on my table, too — or even the unavoidable placement at the top of the screen.

It’s the fact that Twitter is willing to be so obtrusive in the first place.

For years, Twitter was careful about its treatment of advertisements. On its website, Twitter never took the easy route of inserting ads directly into the Tweet stream. When the company finally rolled out ads on the website, they came in the form of “Promoted Trends,” a kind of sponsored trending topic. But even then, Twitter relegated them to a side column, denoted by a gold “promoted” tag.

On the new version of Twitter for iPhone, trending topics — some promoted, some organic — are right in your face. They can’t be hidden and they can’t be ignored. For advertisers, that’s great. For users, it’s a nuisance. But in terms of innovative approaches to advertising, it’s the end of Twitter’s cautious and calculated attitude.

True, today’s update to Twitter for iPhone makes the Quick Bar less obnoxious. Once you scroll down, the bar disappears from view. But the fact that Twitter had to make those changes represents a loss of innocence. The company that used to be so careful about advertisements just triggered its first bona fide backlash.

In a sense, Twitter pulled a Facebook, a company known for overstepping its bounds and then retreating when complaints get too loud. (e.g.,¬†privacy settings and sharing contact information with third parties). In Twitter’s case, the offense was obtrusive advertising instead of privacy. I hope it doesn’t become a pattern.

 
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  1. Clay Fox Says:

    That assertion seems a bit premature IMHO. Twitter has quickly developed a reputation for pushing new and innovative design patterns in their mobile clients, and to me the Quick Bar is another example of this innovation attempt.

    On previous versions of Twitter for iPhone, trending topics were hidden under the search tab bar button and half way down the page. One of the most interesting and compelling things about Twitter on the whole is the real time access to information and trends it provides. This is easy to find on the web app, but almost hidden on mobile. In that light it only makes sense that they would try to highlight this feature more prominently in some way in their mobile apps, and the Quick Bar serves that purpose very well.

    I admit that the promoted trending topics do annoy me since they're an ad in my face, but usually there's only one and it's not the first topic I see every time I load up the app. The original implementation that obscured tweets in your stream no matter where you were was annoying, but I view the quick adjustment as a testament to Twitter having their finger on the pulse of what their users want. For that I applaud them.

    Maybe the Quick Bar isn't the absolute best solution to the problem of hiding the trending topics, but it's definitely a great start. I love that the trending topics are more prominent, I actually see them when I'm mobile now!

  2. Fred Says:

    Your nuance still strikes me as odd. So you're not opposed to advertising, as long as it's somewhere you don't have to look at it?

  3. Rip Says:

    Apple should sue them for using upside down Thunderbolt sign. Twitter is 99% useless anyways.

  4. davezatz Says:

    I wish more services would charge. I'd give Twitter $2/mo for an ad-free experience across clients.

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