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Project Lightning is Twitter Without Twitter

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Things seem to be moving pretty fast for Twitter in the wake of Dick Costolo's resignation. The company's rate of innovation has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride over the past 2 years and it seems to have just hit a particularly intense section of track. The latest change is the upcoming introduction of 'Project Lightning', a new button which will appear on the mobile app.

Once pushed, the familiar style and structure of Twitter completely disintegrates. No more timeline, no 140 character snippets. Instead, you'll be faced with a spread of various different events, from music festivals to sports championships to news stories, whatever people are tweeting about. Select one and you'll be guided into a kind of multimedia cloud, consisting of all the most pertinent tweets, Periscope feeds and Vines about the story you've expanded. 

The content - rather than generating automatically using algorithms - is curated by a team of living, breathing human beings. You can swipe through each item one at a time, either keeping time with or gradually catching up to the present, as represented by a little timeline at the bottom of the screen. For example, if you select an award ceremony, but come in half-way through, the first thing you would see would still be the red carpet, but as you scrolled through you would eventually catch up to the point the event has actually reached, at which stage you'd just start to get live updates, which are indicated by a lightning bolt icon.

You can also follow a particular event, which will mean that relevant tweets will appear in your timeline, regardless of whether or not you actually follow the people who are doling them out. Once the event ends, the tweets will stop appearing. You can even view events if you aren't logged into Twitter, or even if you don't have an account. Twitter want Project Lightning to be a demonstration of how streamlined and all-encompassing news can be when it's sourced from their data banks and they don't want that experience to be limited to regular users. 

This also demonstrates their desire to quietly oust the old timeline format, or at least usher it a little further into the background. Obviously Twitter as we know it still needs to exist for Project Lightning to actually work, but it relies solely on the pertinent, valuable information, all the back-chatter is completely disregarded. 

Project Lightning re-imagines Twitter as a means for the majority of people to get information, rather than directly interact with others. The brass are also planning on eventually opening up third-party access to the tool they use to create the Lightning feeds, so that if you're interested in, say, snowboarding, you can get a set of feeds directly related to that topic and curated by people who know about it, perhaps working for an extreme sports publication.

The level of access to these content streams, which will be embeddable more or less anywhere, will likely soon give Twitter a whole new forward look. Project Lightning will become the front page demonstration of what Twitter is capable of, creating a two level effect of integrated users, like we have now, and people who only use the site to access Lighting feeds. Twitter has always had a wealth of significant information on current events, but now it's finally found a way to adequately serve it up.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Project Lightning is Twitter Without Twitter Reviewed by Callum Davies on Friday, June 19, 2015 Rating: 5

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