Project Lightning, they called it. It was supposed to be the key to Twitter's maturation and organization into a coherent (and unique) real-time news and opinion aggregation service. This October, Twitter launched Project Lightning under the title of Moments, its long-in-development addition that would curate tweets around particularly exciting, interesting, or just hot-right-now stories. Today Moments landed in the UK, and I realized why I hadn't heard a single positive word about it since its launch: it's garbage.
News breaks fast on Twitter, but lacks an inherent stricture or logic. Moments is supposed to be the skeleton upon which hangs the meat of a story like an ongoing sportsball game or, to take an upcoming example from tonight, a political debate. So what's the debut trifecta that greeted me in the new Moments tab today? In order: What are the chances of a white Christmas?, What's the best Taylor Swift video of 2015?, and cute pictures of baby bats. Baby mother-suckling bats.
This at a time when a UK astronaut is en route to the International Space Station, a Paris attack suspect has been arrested in France, and the local inflation rate has turned positive for the first time in four months. You don't have to be interested in any one of those three stories to realize that they're news items that will be interesting to some people somewhere. That's why they're on the BBC's homepage, where I found them.
Twitter's pretense of getting into the news game is just boldfaced attention baiting. It feels like the company is literally singing the "na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na" Batman theme tune and mocking me with it. You came here for news? Hah!
I love Twitter and I regularly do get my news from it, which is why I find this new tab so offensive. It's Twitter's "you might also like" section, seemingly intent on generating clicks in the service of advertisers rather than utility for its users. These are not moments in any sense of the word. They contain zero news content. This is the same tier of shit as Taboola. And nobody loves Taboola.
Adding insult to injury, the Moments tab has slotted into the place of Notifications on Twitter's web client. So now the muscle memory of always clicking at that one particular spot is sending me into Twitter's mess of a news identification service.
As I type this, Twitter did finally add an actual developing story to its Moments feed, which concerns the evacuation of Los Angeles schools due to a threat of attack. Clicking into it, though, shows little more than a curated hashtag. I'm a long way from being convinced this middling solution between the real immediacy of Twitter itself and the more deliberate and selective coverage of professional news outlets carries any significant value. But one thing I'm certain of right away is that Twitter should not be allowed to get away with fleshing out its Moments with fluff and assorted other junk. Because I believe Twitter is better than that.
Verge Video: Twitter Moments