Feature Friday: #Discover

It's friday and I am going to talk about a feature I have highlighted here before. It's the #Discover tab in Twitter. This feature just gets better and better and recently they overhauled the design to eliminate the noise and bring simplicity and clarity. I like it very much.


You can see that tweets of stories/posts/etc now reveal a short bit of the story. And tweets of photos show the photo in the timeline.

The other great thing is you get relevant news and interesting tweets from your friends comingled, as the screeengrab above shows.

If you use Twitter a lot, as I do and as I suspect many of you do, it knows you very well and does a fantastic job of highlighting the most interesting stuff right now on Twitter for you.

If you use Twitter and don't use #Discover, you are missing out. Big time.


Comments (Archived):

  1. bsoist

    Been using this tab since you mentioned it the first time. I like it a lot more than I thought I would.and you’re right – it’s getting better

    1. fredwilson

      i love features that keep getting better

      1. bsoist

        I like that is seems to really “discover” things. Things that promise to work this way – TiVO, Google, Disqus – don’t usually work as well as advertised.

        1. kidmercury

          google+ will win the discovery game for an undifferentiated audience, simply because it has the big data advantage (for an undifferentiated, i.e. generic or non-niche, audience).

          1. bsoist

            I understand they have the “big data” but their “discovery” seems so myopic to me. I don’t find anything new. I know what my friends think, mostly, I want real discovery.

          2. awaldstein

            We should have I’ll take that bet tab.So don’t agree on this one.One of the best designed systems without a vestige of soul in it.

          3. kidmercury

            google doesn’t need soul and twitter doesn’t have one either, or if you think it does it will have even less of one as it tries to scale to the comical levels it will need to aspire to to justify its valuation. google though is tool that allows others to express their “soul”. one could say twitter is the same, though google will be better at it. google hangouts is a prime example, but wait until the google+ API becomes more available.

          4. awaldstein

            Well said.I’ll still take the bet.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        The lucky ones have built such big ecosystems that they have lots of areas that can handle and require play time to tinker and improve. It’s amazing how it all comes down to just a basic leading metric or two – and how few people understand that in business, investors or otherwise – how they just don’t trust it.

  2. JimHirshfield

    OK, so you’re right. Discover tab *is* full of awesome:

    1. fredwilson

      oh yes!

  3. Aaron Klein

    I have been missing out on this feature, mainly because I love Tweetbot and it syncs my place on Twitter across Mac, iPad and iPhone.But I just installed the official Twitter app yesterday for another reason. There are times where I’m hours behind on Twitter. I actually want to flip through old-to-new and catch up on what’s happened.But then a breaking news event like the Capitol car chase happens, and I want to figure out what’s going on right now. For that (and for the Discover tab), I can now switch to the official Twitter app and just see recent tweets.There is NOTHING like Twitter for figuring out what is going on right now. Nothing else comes close.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Yes, it doesn’t work with Tweetdeck either. Only beef is that I have to open the actual Twitter app to use it, or Twitter webpage.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Somehow I think that’s by design. 😉

      2. Robert Seidman

        In ways that are important (to me), TweetDeck handles this much better than Twitter proper, giving you some of the benefits of #Discover in a “always visible” way via its Activity stream.#Discover is awesome, but I ALMOST NEVER use it. It’s a big design challenge for Twitter to figure out how to effectively surface one of its biggest benefits.With TweetDeck & Activity stream column I can at least easily see who people are following & what they are favorite-ing*. Not sure what it says about me but I frequently find the activity stream more interesting than my timeline. So I’ve spurned Twitter proper pretty much everywhere but my phone (due to screen size/old eyes). No app for tablets/phones, but tweetdeck.com works great.*It’s not perfect and there are downsides including some that require filtering. If you follow someone who has a gazillion followers and is a perfunctory favorite-er (i.e. anytime someone mentions them, they favorite it), or you follow accounts that bulk follow hundreds of other accounts at the same time, the pace of the Activity stream can be dizzying.

    2. kidmercury

      there is stuff that comes very close and by some measures and some opinions is even better. facebook is a rival of sorts, although google news is my go to when i’m looking for an immediate story.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Not for me. I was telling Fred the other day, I don’t think I’ve gone to the home page of a news site since I started using Twitter. Daily habit…poof.

        1. LE

          Yeah and that twitter daily habit can easily go poof as well.Like the three dog night song with the lyrics “seasons change and so do I”.I usually use HN and Techmeme. Until a better thing comes along and then I will be on to that better thing [1] [2] Before that I was heavily into the NY Times “most” on their home page.[1] PG of course doesn’t feel it’s necessary to do anything with HN to keep this from happening. Until it effects his deal flow. By then of course it will be to late. When you see he does make changes in the formula it will almost certainly be a canary in the coal mine.[2] Because unlike NBC Nightly News (which I watch) there is little to prevent someone else from duplicating what these people are doing. And while it would be difficult for someone to be twitter at this point (ship has sailed) keeping in mind why people use twitter someone will be able to steal users attention to the point where it won’t be what it is today. By that time the investors will be out of it of course.

    3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      It is a big reason why I never strayed from using the official twitter app!

      1. Aaron Klein

        I think that’s one of the reasons they built it. 🙂

  4. William Mougayar

    It’s true. That # tab is the epitome of serendipitous discovery. It always brings unexpected and varied content. It’s like throwing a net in the sea, and not knowing what kind of fish you’ll get.Let’s hope they keep promoted tweets out of that stream at least.

    1. bsoist

      I don’t love promoted tweets.

      1. William Mougayar

        Reality is they are essential to Twitter’s (current) financial viability, so I understand we have to tolerate them.

        1. bsoist

          tolerate != love

          1. William Mougayar


        2. awaldstein

          A business model based on customer tolerance. Quite a strategy.

          1. William Mougayar

            How about Google AdWords? We tolerate them on the side or top of search results.

          2. awaldstein

            Ahhh…An entire industry, our world, based on the key that value is supported by ads which are best when we don’t notice them;)You are correct of course. That’s life. But it is just backwards.So you will buy the stock, be happy if their ad revenue increases yet be as happy if you never see the ads themselves.This is so much todo about something so inevitably foolish.That being said, I’ve good dollars from just this model. I’ve simply chosen at this part of my life to build models based on value. Possibly hopelessly optimistic.

          3. kidmercury

            google adwords is often extremely relevant and desired, not simply tolerated.

          4. William Mougayar

            That’s because there is purchase intent behind these Google Searches. Gradually, there is purchase intent behind Twitter searches, e.g. search for Software, you’ll see a promoted tweet from NetSuite.

          5. kidmercury

            I have a real tough time imagining Twitter as a destination to express purchase intent. It seems to rely entirely on discovery. I.e. sure they might serve ads based on keyword relevance, but it wont have the shopping intent that virtually all amzn searches and many goog searches do. Influencers can sell without pre-existing intent, but in those instances the influencer gets the money — not Twitter

          6. William Mougayar

            It’s a bet that advertisers are making. What would be interesting is to find out who are Twitter’s largest advertisers.In the S1, they give 3 interesting examples, Relic, Bonobos and WheatThins, with benefits including Awareness, support for an off-line campaign, or just engagement over Twitter.

          7. kidmercury

            exactly, they are betting on twitter like they bet on billboards, which also are not selling purchasing intent.in any event, when these companies do stuff like promote videos or marketing campaigns or infographics or whatever, i anticipate it being the marketing agency that creates that stuff that will get the real profit opportunity more so than twitter.

          8. William Mougayar

            If I’m not mistaken, these Twitter products are performance-based, so there is some accountability. At the end of the day, it’s a new channel, just like the Internet was a channel.

          9. LE

            Yeah did you ever notice out there how many people think of themselves as “good” but when it comes to something that has personal impact on them (even in a nominal way) but benefits others all the sudden that “good” goes out the window?For example people tend to hate junkmail (postal) even though it benefits greatly certain people (printers, post office reduces cost of first class mail and obv. filters to all parts of the economy). But people just can’t seem to get by the large inconvenience of taking that piece of paper and putting it in the trash. That’s a hardship. A big hardship and reason to bitch.Or TV commercials. People will do anything to skip them without regard to the fact that it is the reason for all the free content. (more trouble than throwing out junk mail for sure).Or blocking pop up ads.

    2. kidmercury

      if it’s popular, you can bet promoted tweets will be there.i think too many advertisers still do not understand how to make the most out of these social media advertising opportunities. you really have to create great content first, then i think you can see great results. the bad news for twitter/facebook/etc is that i think the ad agencies that create content are going to be the real winners who create and capture the value here.

  5. Mark Birch

    It is a feature that has definitely evolved for the better. Now I find that Twitter’s Discover tab is about the best example of well-executed algorithmic curation of any website or app.

    1. William Mougayar


    2. bsoist


    3. Andrew Kennedy

      I agree as well. Well said.

    4. Matt A. Myers

      I’ve found I actually am curious at times what is in the Discover tab, whereas before it just didn’t draw any of my attention. This continuous evolvement should result in some interesting positive metrics to unfold for Twitter’s ecosystem.

  6. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I a heavy twitter user and haven’t used discover yet but will try it. Recently I discovered how to use notifications for specific twitter handles and it isy favourite feature at the moment. I get to catch all my favourite people tweets all the time!

    1. William Mougayar

      The Twitter notification was a Friday feature a while back too.

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        I remember but I had a hard time using it properly back then. Now that I know how to use it, it is incredibly powerful!

  7. William Mougayar

    The best part of this feature is that you don’t have to do anything to set it up.BUT…If Twitter would augment it one day with filters, that would be a killer. Even if it’s 5 filters. I’d love them to let me save 5 Hashtags or keywords and see them all in 1 stream. I would pay $5/month for that, without promoted content in it.

    1. pointsnfigures

      best recent hashtag was #governmentshutdownpickuplines

      1. William Mougayar

        oy…not a good outcome.

      2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        #peopleinIndiaTalkingAboutIt.Some guys fear that private companies may use it as an excuse to delay payments and delivery.

  8. jason wright

    the catch-22 of discovery is that what you don’t know…you don’t know, and therefore it always takes someone else to tell you that you’re missing out on a thing you’ve yet to discover, which is where avc comes to my rescue. i have a twitter account, but so far it hasn’t tempted me.i read that Dick Costello has 1.6% of the company’s stock. that’s a nice little nest to be sitting on.

    1. bsoist

      I still think Twitter should give shares to the first 385,000 users. 🙂

      1. jason wright

        i agree. all that private data the people give to twitter for free, which it then ‘mashes’ for the private profit of an exclusive subset group of the people. it doesn’t seem quite right. those who use it and provide data should have a direct stake in the business.

        1. kidmercury

          they don’t give it “for free.” they give it in exchange for the value twitter helps provide to them in doing so. if they don’t think the value proposition is worthwhile (and i personally don’t) then they don’t have to use it, or can use it as sparingly as they’d like (i use it very sparingly and primarily for marketing other endeavors).

          1. jason wright

            but the value isn’t being fairly redistributed. conversion to stock is exclusive.

          2. baba12

            You don’t have right to having wealth transferred to you because you choose to contribute to their wealth.This is why you would better of reading “Who owns the Future” and then deciding how you want to conduct yourself.Be it Google, Facebook, Twitter etc you benefit from using their services and to provide those services there is a cost which may very be disproportionate and skewed not in the individual’s favor but you are required to accept it. Just walk away.

          3. jason wright

            “required to accept it” – bit technologies will end that.

          4. kidmercury

            fair is subjective. anyone who doesn’t think it’s fair doesn’t have to play.

          5. jason wright

            we each of us need to have a fairness compass to guide the way.play better.

        2. LE

          Wait. Are you actually saying that twitter or any business should “spread the cheer” to those who were early adopters or somehow helped them achieve success?This would imply that life is fair and people don’t operate in their own self interest. Even the church operates in it’s own self interest. Not seeing them give up any of that valuable real estate in the community to help the people that they are encouraging to have babies left and right.Companies (by and large) don’t do this for a very simple reason. They don’t have to. Inverse of the reason that a dog licks his balls. Because a dog can and it feels good. [1][1] Instead of getting disgusted at the comparison just remember that regardless of whether you agree or not you will certainly remember the point I am making which is “because they can”.

          1. jason wright

            you make a good point;”Companies (by and large) don’t do this for a very simple reason. They don’t have to.”they don’t have to, and because company law says they don’t have to.

  9. knueffelbund

    I have a slightly different experience. When it was first added, I checked it very frequently and loved it. This might be just me, but I find it has become too cluttered and it’s basic logic hard to grasp. We have the big trends and activity buttons at the top, and below are individual big sections, each one consisting of a few Tweets, and some recommendations of people to follow. Each of those sections has a “View all suggestions” and a “Find friends” button at the bottom. My assumption is that Twitter creates a set of suggestions once a day, and lumps them together on one of those sections, which is counterintuitive to the (up until the blue line) strict chronological nature of the other timelines. Is that right? And if that is right, then does it really make sense to recommend different people every day?Either way, I find it a bit confusing, and not because the nature of discovery is exploration, but because a basic usability issue. Would love to hear if anybody else feels the same way.

  10. Richard

    Beyond discovery, twitter needs a feature or two to improve a users twitter feed signal to noise (in real time).

    1. baba12

      you shall to wait and see. I am not sure why they have a higher burn rate on their R&D spend as a percentage of revenues. Google which has to deal with more complex engineering problems spends only 10% of revenues on R&D, Twitter filings show it spends 44% of revenue on R&D. Possibly you shall get some features you like. I wonder if Fred has ever discussed why the higher spend on R&D?

      1. David

        I’m guessing it might be something to do with R&D tax credits in Ireland

      2. kidmercury

        it probably has to do a lot with the denominator, i.e. total revenues. google simply has a much more lucrative business model that pulls more money in.

        1. Richard

          Haven’t looked recently, but i don’t believe R&D is a linear function of revenue.

        2. LE

          Always like to point out as well that companies that are profitable actually are even more profitable than they appear. Because they piss away so much money because they can. You tend to drive differently when you have plenty of gas in the tank. You start to pay attention when you are getting close to “E” and you don’t know where the next gas station is.

      3. Richard

        AI and Machine learning* are great tools to work on, but there is a simple approach to increase a users signal to noise ratio (and allow for better targeted sponsored tweets);1) Allow users to adjust twitter feed;By (their) location, NY vs LA.By Time of Day, AM vs PMBy Day of Week, Weekday vs WeekendEtc….2) Allow users to Tag (and search by tags) the people they follow#Tech#Health#Musicetc…*Moreover, it turns the problem from a unsupervised to a supervised machine learning problem (ML

      4. LE

        “Twitter filings show it spends 44% of revenue on R&D.”Hmm seems to me like a great way to smooth things out and increase earnings in the future.A figure like that (if true I’m taking your word for it) is great padding available to be moved downward when needed. I wonder if Fred has ever discussed why the higher spend on R&D?Would guess that the chance of Fred commenting on this at any time is close to 5% but now 0%.

        1. kidmercury

          is it really great padding? they are already losing money, with this year’s losses greater than last year’s losses.

          1. LE

            People put much more on trends than absolute numbers.Improvement is key. Even the Physician with the fat pig patient sees it this way “wow you lost 20 lbs you only weigh 380 that’s great!” If they weighed 320 and came in for the next visit and weighed 320 then there is no improvement and no pat on back. (Except if they had been gaining prior I’m assuming that is not the case).Anyway better to get the bad news out at the start and improve, right?So while if a company was making arbitrarily 10 million it might not be a strategy to make that a loss of 8 million but if you are already losing a big number of x million why not lose a little more?By the way even if someone knows the game they are still effected by the anchoring and the numbers.And that assumes that the R&D is correctly classified and isn’t being wiggled in for some other purpose.I mean I could buy a computer and call it any number of things depending on what I was trying to achieve.

  11. Jason Davis

    There’s one big problem with the discover tab. It’s the third tab, not the first. Twitter biggest challenge is getting new users to engage, and discover to me seems like a great introduction for new users to the platform.

    1. fredwilson

      Damn that is a great comment Jason

      1. pointsnfigures

        Except, if you are a brand new user, how will #Discover target what you might be interested in??

        1. Drew Meyers


        2. LE

          Well with an established user it’s not really even “discover”.It’s really more of the same thing that you are already liking.Consequently since time is finite it’s more like #cannibalization.Twitter will go the same route. People devote a certain amount of time to what it does and what it gives them but they will find a new shiny ball. [1][1] Same reason there is marriage. Without memorialization and lockdown people’s tendency is to get tired and want something new.

      2. LE

        I don’t agree it should be the first tab.#discover is closer to where your eye rests on the web page it is in your field of vision – the home tab isn’t. Eye movement is pretty predictable. I would be very surprised if they hadn’t tested this actually. [1][1] As I like to say “No boating accident” (taken from Richard Dryfuss character in Jaws)

    2. Ana Milicevic

      +1With the amount of real-time chatter they’re seeing I wish they’d organize topics better (and not just through a single hashtag).

      1. pointsnfigures

        Saw a column yesterday in Forbes about curated content for consumers. Was pretty interesting.

        1. Ana Milicevic

          It’s a great advertising opportunity too –> Breaking Bad finale chatter sponsored by Los Pollos Hermanos. Stop by today!

      2. CJ

        Google Plus does a much better job at topic sorting, but Twitter is much more immediately relevant.

    3. Drew Meyers

      How does this help a new user though? It seems the whole value is created by giving me relevant info based on the people I interact with and follow? A new user…has neither of those to go from. Wouldn’t it just become a generic news tab then? Twitter won’t win at that game, IMHO.

      1. Jason Davis

        They could ask you a few questions about yourself. Or they could look at where you are currently and show you breaking or hyperlocal news.

        1. Drew Meyers

          They could. But they aren’t…I don’t think?

  12. AlexHammer

    I do agree with you 99% of the time, but this feature is not working well for me. Getting mostly gibberish, unrelated information to the content I normally consume.

  13. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’ve been using Buffer for all my retweeting for a while now. And it seems like the Discover tab is still serving the “pre-Buffer” me (I have changed the topical focus of my Twitter acct). Is Twitter not able to collect and analyze activity done thru 3rd party apps? Seems like it still ought to be noticing the people I’ve followed more recently.Retweeting is actually an important activity for my business. The Discovery tab could be a great a tool for me.

  14. Drew Meyers

    I have to say, I use Twitter daily, both on mobile and desktop…and have never once spent any time on the discovery tab. I have of course used search.twitter.com to find things. Doesn’t seem like a use case for me, there is already so much info in my stream that I have zero desire to have yet another way to find new things of interest.

  15. matthughes

    I was initially skeptical but Twitter Discover is pretty awesome, perhaps my single favorite feature within Twitter lately.I scroll through the Activity section at the ‘end of day’ to see what everyone favorited, followed, etc. – I always find interesting links and information.

  16. SubstrateUndertow

    In an era of organically accelerating interdependencies discovering/differentiating what is worthy of our focus should be a core strategic-narrative for all information-based-services.By serendipity I just read this GEM of a post:GEM post = instantly rewires your brain with an organizational-narative for better understanding and reusable access/synthesis to a lot of stuff you sort of already knew.Strategy Made Simple – The 3 Core Strategy Questionshttp://edgeperspectives.typ…- by John HagelOne more thing. Too many people still view differentiation as a matter of features and functions in the product or service they are trying to deliver to the market. Sure, that matters. But it’s the most superficial level of differentiation. . . .From my perspective, the ultimate form of differentiation is a compelling narrative (not a story, as I try to make clearhere) – a unique and unfolding opportunity for the audience that invites their participation to help shape the outcome. The most powerful narratives are ones that speak to the most basic needs of the people you are trying to reach. The narrative is not about you; it’s about them. . . .What is it that makes narratives so successful to strategy? In a world of accelerating change and uncertainty, they provide a compass to focus people (both within and outside our organizations) and reassure them that they can make a difference at a time when everything seems out of control.It is a gold mine of relevance regarding our most important job to be done.Building strategic-narratives, memes of collective experiences, that expedite our ability to differentiate the wheat from the chaff in a complex world of organic interdependencies.

    1. kidmercury

      hagel is a genius, i recommend reading and re-reading his books. in fact since you posted this i think it is about time i re-read net worth, my all-time favorite of his. published like 15 years ago or something and still way ahead of its time.but with that said he is pulling a parker. if he wasn’t as smart as he is i would call him out on it more but instead i will just encourage folks to read his books. if you are going to write long, put out a book.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        “pulling a parker”I don’t get the reference ?

  17. CJ

    I love Twitter except that I barely use it anymore from my desktop. The webapp has a memory leak in Chrome and eventually gets unresponsive. Also, it’s a pain having to have it open and taking up my entire screen as opposed to an app running in the task bar on a small part of the screen. I’d use it much more if I could find a Windows desktop app that still works.

  18. dineshn72

    Congratulations, Fred, on being on a list of top something-or-the-other-who-cares-as-long-as-it-is-Vanity-Fair http://www.vanityfair.com/b… 🙂 While that list/distinction can be viewed with suspicion, rest assured that you are in good company there. Only a matter of time before we see Gary Sinise playing you in some movie, I suppose :-p

    1. kidmercury

      no doubt sinise is fred’s celebrity twin, though when “from blogs to riches: the fred wilson story” goes into production, i hope kevin spacey gets the role

      1. Anne Libby

        Gary Sinise? I think character actor Dylan Baker is a better celebrity doppelgänger for Fred.

        1. kidmercury

          i don’t know. i’m still voting sinise but that could be because the idea has been planted in my head for a while. i certainly see the resemblance to dylan baker as well (didn’t know who he was by name but recognize him after googling him).

          1. Anne Libby

            He’s in everything! I met him and his wife briefly at a charity walkathon (nice people) and I asked, “Haven’t I met you before at (a friend’s) house?” only to later realize that I’ve seen them both in a zillion films and TV shows.

  19. Stuart Willson

    It would be nice to see TweetDeck incorporate #discovery. It would make a valuable desktop client even more valuable by extending the value prop beyond “a way to better sort, manage and/or disaggretate content” (which for me, drove a massive increase in use/engagement vs the firehose of the standard timeline) into enabling greater discovery (vs simply following up on who’s being retweeted). I know we’re “mobile first” these days but since I spend 8am – 7pm at my desk, that’s mostly where most of my Twitter use occurs.

  20. Tracey Jackson

    It feels like a nicer looking version of my feed. Which is what it is. I agree with whoever says it should be better organized. I would like to see what is popular with the people I don’t follow.

    1. Tracey Jackson

      I’m replying to myself – rather pathetic, but taking back my comment. I just spent more time there. I do like it. Makes the whole process easier. Though will I now go there and not my feed?

  21. Dave Pinsen

    Will have to take another look at the Discover tab, but one area where Twitter has added more noise is in its Connect tab and email notifications. Letting me know when someone favorited one of my tweets is fine, but letting me know when someone favorited a tweet I’m mentioned in? Unnecessary.

  22. george

    That’s one of my favorite features using Twitter. I enjoy their natural approach to promoting exploration and new connections – amplified experience.

  23. fredwilson

    disqus is today where twitter was three or so years ago. in the early stages of building something useful

  24. Guest

    maybe discovery should be a partnership for them