Twitter to let users follow interests as well as people

Twitter users will be able to follow a small number of interests by the end of the year in the same way they follow people, the company said Tuesday.

The feature will be rolled out internationally as the one-to-many messaging platform prioritizes being an online venue for conversations rather than a pulpit for one-way broadcasting to the masses.

"We are basically rewriting the entire conversation service," Twitter product team leader Kayvon Beykpour told reporters during a briefing at the company's San Francisco headquarters.

"We are rebuilding that infrastructure, and it is nearly complete."

The company also highlighted ongoing efforts to make sharing thoughts on the platform safe and easy.

Twitter has always let users follow accounts but a new feature, set to debut by the end of this year, will let users opt into following certain sports teams or categories on a curated list.

For example, sending or interacting with tweets about a team might prompt a query over whether the user wants to "follow" that team or be kept in the know about what is being said on Twitter on the topics.

"We are going to let you directly follow topics on Twitter," said product manager Rob Bishop.

"Rather than replacing following people, we actually think this will help you find new people to follow."

There will be an ability to "mute" topics to avoid seeing the score of a sporting match, for example.

Topics people follow will show up in their profiles as long as they are signed up for the interest.

Twitter is starting slowly, offering just a few sports options, to hone the feature before expanding to other topics, according to the teams.

Subjects designated "interests" by Twitter are meant to be lasting - such as football or cricket - rather than passing hot topics, according to Bishop.

"It is important for us to come up with a rigorous set of principles when it comes to defining topics," Beykpour said.

"We are taking this superpower very seriously."

A conversations team at Twitter has been working on ways to get people more enthusiastically engaged in meaningful exchanges, dabbling with changes while being mindful not to disrupt the lives of people who rely on the service.

"We know that Twitter is at its best with it is not just you tweeting something out as a broadcast, but really engaging in that conversation or being a host for others to engage in a conversation about what you are talking about," said conversations product team member Sara Haider.

Twitter has no plans for an often requested "edit" button that would let users change posts already fire off, saying it raised complex issues and was "not anywhere near the top of our list" of things to do.

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