By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Twitter wasborn in 2006 as a stream of SMS text messages. Before goingpublic in 2013, it's now reveling in images.
The company tweaked its design Tuesday to favor image- andvideo-sharing by showing visual media directly within theTwitter timeline. Users previously had to click on a tweet toview the embedded multimedia.
Although the change does not affect the basic mechanics ofhow content is shared, it will likely alter the feel of Twitter,which long clung to its roots as an 140-character, text-basedservice invented in an era before smartphones existed.
As Twitter prepares to go public in a matter of weeks, thechange will also present Twitter's advertisers with moreopportunities to get attention-grabbing ads in front of users -leading to more revenue for the company.
Twitter has long acknowledged that pictures and video aresome of the most often shared content in social media.
The most re-circulated tweet in Twitter history, forinstance, was a picture sent from President Obama's account onElection Night in 2012. Three words - "Four more years" -captioned a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama embracing themoment the president declared victory.
"These rich Tweets can bring your followers closer to what'shappening, and make them feel like they are right there withyou," Michael Sippey, Twitter's vice president of product, saidin a short blog post Tuesday. "We want to make it easier foreveryone to experience those moments on Twitter."
Twitter's changes served up another reminder that socialmedia remains one of the most hotly contested arenas in thetechnology sector.
Facebook Inc made changes to its layout and newsfeedalgorithms this year to more heavily promote visual content. Italso acquired Instagram for $1 billion last year and hasrecently begun showing ads on the picture-heavy social network.
Earlier on Tuesday, Google Inc unveiled newfeatures that let users publish slick home videos to its Google+social network - a veiled assault on Twitter's Vine app andFacebook's Instagram, which support video-sharing.
Twitter's new look immediately drew mixed reactions fromsome of the tech digerati and early adopters, including many whopredicted the more visual look would appeal to newcomers whomight find Twitter's stream of rolling text confusing.
But Mathew Ingram, a writer at GigaOm, said Twitter was "indanger of suffering from what some call the MySpace effect (anexcess of ads and gaudy images)" precisely because Twitter's oldguard was accustomed to streamlined text.
"Will the number of enthusiastic advertisers make up for thenumber of irritated and/or overwhelmed users?" Ingram wrote.
Others, like Aaron Levie, the wise-cracking chief executiveof file-sharing company Box, took advantage of the new design tosimply point out how different Twitter felt.
Levie tweeted: "People on Twitter right now." In the sametweet, he appended a screenshot of two characters from the filmJurassic Park, their jaws slack with astonishment.
- Arts & Entertainment