Twitter tweaks mobile app, revamps search

The changes include modified Search and Discovery tools

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  On-demand Software

Twitter has pushed out an update to its mobile app that has a new search tool intended to make it easier for users to find relevant content.

The update, released Wednesday, includes several modifications to both the Android and iOS versions of the app, as well as to the mobile.twitter.com site, Twitter said in a blog post.

The improvements include considerable changes to the site's search algorithm that are designed to help users "get more great content faster," wrote Twitter product management director Esteban Kozak.

When users do a search in the new app, for instance, a mix of tweets, photos and people appear in a single stream of results, as opposed to being categorized into separate tabs for tweets and people, as they were before.

Twitter calls this "a major shift from how we previously partitioned results by type," in a separate post on the company's engineering blog.

While a search normally looks at items of the same type and picks the top-scoring results, applying the same method to a blended search is not straightforward, said Youngin Shin, of Twitter's search-quality team, in the post.

"The scores of different content types are computed by different devices, and thus not directly comparable for blending," he said. The new search algorithm, therefore, is built around a universal ranking system that groups together different types of content.

Among the other changes, all the content that appears in the Discover tab, which includes tweets, activity, trending topics and suggestions of people to follow, now appears in a single stream. In the previous app, that content was broken into separate chunks of information.

And the update makes it quicker to access websites from links that appear in tweets. Previously, the user had to open a tweet before the URL turned into a working link. Now, URLs displayed in the main tweet feed are already links that can be clicked on.

There is also a new search icon for the iPhone that appears on every screen in the app, as a magnifying glass icon in the top right corner. In the previous version, users could search only from the "Connect" and "Discover" tabs. The search icon was already in the app for the iPad and Android.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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