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Twitter's secret project lets you follow events, not just people

Twitter will launch Project Lightning in the next few months. This new tool offers a curated approach to current events and story collections on the social media giant.

Michel Euler/AP/File
Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, in a press conference at France's Culture Ministry in Paris on March 5, 2015.

A new Buzzfeed report reveals that Twitter has been working on a new feature called Project Lightning, which is expected to be an in-depth way to follow events. Twitter’s Kevin Weil, who runs product for Twitter and spoke to BuzzFeed, says that Project Lightning will be “a brand new way to look at tweets.”

Lightning focuses on the events happening around users, and allows people to “follow” collections live. Events can also be embedded into other websites and are able to be viewed regardless of whether a user is logged in.

Twitter is using this project to take, as the Verge notes, “a decidedly editorial approach to news curation.”

Events will be curated by a team organized by Twitter’s vice president of global media Katie Jacobs Stanton. According to Ms. Stanton, the curation team will be composed of people from around the world, all of whom have backgrounds in news and storytelling.

The project, when launched, will put a button in the center of the home bar on the Twitter mobile app, allowing users to easily access the Lightning feature. From there, users will be taken to a screen where they can swipe between the timeline of events, curated posts, and related stories. Users will be able to follow events live, and “catch up” on events that started before the user opened the app. Representatives state that Lightning will be given a focus on the desktop version of Twitter, as well.

According to Twitter, these collections will integrate with Vine and Periscope, which the company owns, in addition to uploaded photos and videos, to offer a unique, comprehensive experience. BuzzFeed’s Mat Honan notes that the project has a distinct multimedia focus.

Then-chief-executive Dick Costolo told BuzzFeed that Twitter plans to someday open up its curation tool to other companies who may want to use the software for their own brand of storytelling. This would not be the first editorial tool hatched out of Twitter, as co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone went on to found Medium, an online publishing platform, in 2012.

Lightning, though months away from being rolled out, comes as Twitter goes through some massive changes. Mr. Costolo recently stepped down as CEO of the company, with co-founder Jack Dorsey taking over as interim CEO. Though Costolo will no longer be involved with the production of Lightning, he and Mr. Dorsey both maintain that Twitter is committed to launching Project Lightning.

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