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Twitter Is Going to Let Users Follow Topics

Twitter is exploring ways for its users to follow interests on its platform, executives announced Tuesday. To achieve this, the company will curate tweets around a number of popular topics that users can then follow. The goal of the new feature was to make it as easy to follow an interest as it is to follow a person on Twitter, said Sriram Krishnan from the Twitter product group.

Once a user follows a curated topic, they will get to see relevant tweets and live events right in their timeline. Users will also be able to hide events and mute topics to avoid spoilers around TV shows or sports events. The topics a user follows will be public, and it will be easy to subscribe or unsubscribe to a topic.

Topics are being curated with the help of machine learning. “Twitter is about what is happening right now,” said Rob Bishop from the company’s product group. Human curation would be too slow to curate such topics, he argued.

The company is first testing topics on Android, and is kicking it off with curated sports topics like Formula 1 and the MMA. Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour said that the company was going to start off with a whitelist of approved topics, and that it would exclude some topics. He said that the work on which topics to include and which to avoid was ongoing.

The company showed off the test at a press event at its office in San Francisco Tuesday, where executives outlined key areas of work for the coming months. In addition to interests and topics, Twitter also wants to work on improving its product for international markets, as well as issues around abuse.

“It is imperative that we increase the health of the public conversation,” said Beykpour. As part of a Q&A, Keykpour also said that he was sad that Twitter shut down Vine in early 2017. “I do regret that we shut down Vine,” he said. Beykpour attributed the decision to shut down the social video app to the state the company was in at the time, and the need to focus its investments on its core service. “I think it’s sad that we were unable to make Vine successful,” he said.

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