Twitter Launches Realtime Activity Streams, Begins Testing 't.co' URL Shortening Service

Twitter the microblogging services announced two new features that help you discover more on Twitter. You can now see when someone favorites or retweets one of your Tweets. You can also learn which Tweets are most interesting and inspiring to the people you follow.The features will begin rolling out to a very small set of users […]

Twitter the microblogging services announced two new features that help you discover more on Twitter. You can now see when someone favorites or retweets one of your Tweets. You can also learn which Tweets are most interesting and inspiring to the people you follow.

The features will begin rolling out to a very small set of users today on Twitter.com. The rollout will continue over the next several weeks, assuming everything goes to plan. Twitter is thinking about how to surface this same information on their mobile applications, but notes that it could be different for different devices.

First, the "@Mentions" tab on twitter.com is being replaced by two new tabs: "@USERNAME" and "Activity". "These two streams will add an additional layer to Twitter and to Tweets themselves, a layer showing the social activity around them."

"The @USERNAME stream will show you which of your Tweets are Favorites, plus the latest Retweets (of your Tweets), Tweets directed to you, and your new Followers."

And, the Activity tab provides a rich new source of discovery by highlighting the latest Favorites, Retweets, and Follows from the people you follow on Twitter - all in one place. It's easier than ever to explore Twitter, connect with people, and discover what's happening around the world."

All of this information flows into these two new Twitter streams in realtime. And the key is that you can do activities like reply, retweet, and most importantly for Twitter, follow, right from within these streams.

At the same time, they're keeping the main stream intact as the simple, standard reverse chronological stream. The mixing of @replies with other activity will probably piss some users off -- most people hate change, after all -- but overall it's a smart move.

This change could significantly alter Twitter usage in one other way as well. While Favoriting Tweets is just about as old as Twitter itself, it's a feature that has always been under-represented and under-utilized. That's because Twitter never gave it a defined purpose, and more importantly, never had a good way of showing how others were using it. Now they're giving the feature the latter exposure.

It seems that most people have used the Favorite button throughout the years to either bookmark something or to actually mark their favorite Tweets. This lead to the rise of services like Favstar. With the recent addition of Favorite email notifications, Favoriting finally gained some Twitter social juice. Now these new activity streams should jack up the usage of the Favorite as a way to show someone you appreciate their Tweet -- a "like" button, if you will.

Finally, starting today, Twitter will begin testing its link-wrapping feature which will automatically shorten all URL's 20 characters long or greater into t.co-wrapped links. This test will affect a certain percentage of tweets posted publicly through the service, or sent out via direct message.

The tests are a "canary in the coal mine," says Twitter - meaning an attempt to work out any issues with the new URL-shortening system prior to its Monday, August 15th launch.

Specifically, Twitter is hoping to determine if there are any user-facing problems that will arise from the system, once operating at scale. This means you may start seeing links shortened to begin with "t.co" appearing on Twitter over the course of the week.

More information on how this change affects developers is available here and here.

[Source: Twitter]