Twitter grows up, gets a multimedia makeover

redsigned twitter.com pageTwitter, the popular microblogging service unveiled a new multimedia-rich home page design that is expected to engage users and keep them on Twitter.com longer. The redesigned site offers an enhanced sidebar that displays images, video, and user profile information without having to leave the news stream. The changes are live today but it may take a few days before the changes are rolled out to all the users.

At launch, there are only 16 media content partners whose content will appear in the sidebar, but Twitter is actively recruiting for more. The list includes YouTube, Flickr, Ustream, Vimeo, and TwitPic.

The newsfeed also had a makeover. The newsfeed is now one endless page. There’s no longer any need to click on “More” to see other tweets. More dramatically, each post can have inline photos. Users no longer have to click on a link to see pictures.

Tumblr, a smaller microblogging competitor, already lets you embed pictures and videos directly into your news feed.

This move makes a lot of sense for Twitter as it tries to attract and retain new users. With a user base of 145 million, almost double what it had earlier this year, the company has plenty of room to grow. The enhanced design is much more interactive than the original, which required users to click away to follow links, see images, or even see information about other users. While an entire ecosystem of third-party apps sprang up to expand functionality, such as TweetDeck, it also allowed almost a quarter of the users to use the service without ever going to the home page.

By capturing the audience on the site, Twitter can work on its ad strategy, such as displaying more contextual and sponsored tweets into your feed while viewing video.

While most users were overwhelmingly supportive of the changes, there were some concerns the service was getting too complicated and too much like Facebook.

“Embedding the media doesn’t make Twitter more complicated. It makes it simpler because you don’t have to open up another link,” said Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.