Twitter Wants to Be Social Epicenter for Live Events

CEO discusses filtering noise, increasing user-friendliness

Twitter has long been a virtual water cooler, simulating a communal viewing experience during prime-time TV moments. During a panel at Brookings' Center for Technology Innovation, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo outlined his plans to make Twitter more user-friendly .

“It would be nice to see things like a graphic of spikes in the conversation, what time they happened … and be able to scroll back to that time to see what happened at that particular moment,” Costolo said. He envisions a tool that would allow users to "follow along with Twitter in a DVR mode" rather than sift through a reverse-chronological stream of tweets.

Twitter is trying to find ways to mine data from the crush of information on its site. Costolo explained that the difficulty lies in filtering "the signal from the noise" during live events, which often cause Twitter to crash from an influx of traffic.

"[The] ability to track and monitor the moments within an event, either as they happen or to catch up with them, is something we want to enhance," Costolo said. "We want to make that experience even better, curating the moments within the event, the media from it, and making it that much easier to navigate."

During the 2012 Olympics, Twitter attempted to curate posts from athletes and journalists, but according to Costolo, that effort "lost the roar of the crowd." Costolo would prefer to leave the "synthesizing and analyzing" of tweets to journalists and news organizations.

"We think of Twitter as a global town square," Costolo said. "We don't do journalism. We don't report tweets that come in. We're very complementary to news organizations."

While keeping a laissez-faire stance on content creation, the social media company aims to play a larger role in the entertainment industry. In May, Twitter introduced the Amplify TV program, which allows digital marketers to target ads based on Twitter activity surrounding the brand or TV show. Twitter's broad audience—the site now boasts 200 million active users monthly—has drawn in BBC America, ESPN, Fox and other networks for video-streaming partnerships, with the goal of becoming everyone's go-to second screen application.