When you think of social media companies and cameras, Twitter is probably not the first app to come to mind.
Sure, there are tons of photos, videos, and GIFs throughout your feed, but many of those images don’t necessarily originate in the Twitter app’s camera. Now, the company is hoping to change that. Twitter is redesigning its in-app camera as part of its effort to make it easier for people to follow events.
Beginning today, Twitter users will see a new camera interface in the app, which lets you post photos and videos with tweet text overlaid on top. The overall effect makes images shared on Twitter look a bit more like what you’d see on Snapchat or Instagram Stories, and you can pull up the new camera by swiping left from your feed much like you can in other apps.
These images can also be tagged to specific events, like SXSW. Twitter has been working to make it easier to follow breaking news events and other culturally significant happenings for some time. The app can now direct people to dedicated “rooms” if they’re interested in following an event like SXSW, and can also alert users to breaking news.
The new in-app camera aims to enhance this by using your location to tag nearby events. So, if you were at SXSW or another big conference, for instance, the camera could automatically suggest a relevant tag to help surface your photo to someone trying to follow that event.
“We’re trying to make it really simple to go from capturing what’s happening, to getting it to the audience that really matters and getting it to the people who want to talk about it,” says Twitter’s VP of Product, Keith Coleman.
Importantly, this only applies to photos and videos you shoot directly in the Twitter app. If you attach a photo or video from your camera roll, it will still look like a normal tweet with an image attached.
That’s very intentional, according to Coleman, who says Twitter’s new camera is meant to encourage in-the-moment sharing.
“If Twitter has always been sort of the microphone or megaphone in your pocket, we want it to feel like this was almost the TV camera in your pocket,” Coleman says.
That Twitter is revamping its camera to emphasize images over text also raises questions about whether it’s trying to compete more directly with apps like Instagram and Snapchat. The update is clearly aimed at getting more people to create content inside Twitter, rather than simply sharing photos they’ve already taken. And it’s the first significant update to Twitter’s in-app camera in some time (Bloomberg reported last January a Snapchat-like camera redesign was in the works.)
But Coleman says Twitter’s approach is different from others in that it’s not oriented towards selfies or disappearing content. He notes that the first photo to ever go really viral on Twitter was a breaking news event: when a plane landed in the Hudson river.
“The first moment that pictures mattered on Twitter was when a plane landed in the Hudson. If it was an ephemeral picture of the plane landing in the Hudson, it would have had a very different effect than if it was a picture that was live for the world to see that could go viral,” he said.
The irony of that example, though, is that the iconic “Miracle on the Hudson” photo did eventually disappear from Twitter because the company didn’t have its own photo-sharing capabilities at the time. (It’s a long and complicated saga.)
But, a decade later, that scenario would go much differently. Not only could you snap the photo directly in Twitter, it might go viral a little faster.