This article was published on September 5, 2012

Twitter announces tool to embed interactive timelines of tweets into any site

Twitter announces tool to embed interactive timelines of tweets into any site
Matthew Panzarino
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Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

Twitter has announced a new tool that will allow users to embed not just single tweets, but an entire timeline of tweets on web pages. The tool will allow the embed of a single stream, not a collection of tweets, but it can be customized in a variety of ways.

The timeline, interestingly enough, is a streaming embed. Twitter’s own web interface doesn’t currently stream tweets.

Twitter explains the feature:

When you browse websites that have embedded a Twitter timeline, you can now interact with it in the same way you do on Expand Tweets to see photos, media, and more. Start a conversation from the Tweet box, follow users that you discover, and reply to, retweet, or favorite Tweets directly from the page.

It’s already being used by ESPN, London Fashion Week and writer Margaret Atwood, as well as Twitter itself on its official blog.

The embed code is a single line of HTML. The timelines are interactive with the ability to reply, RT and favorite tweets, as well as follow accounts and tweet directly. The expansion options of Twitter are in full effect here for photos and more.

You create an embeddable timeline via a new tool on which is under a section called ‘widgets’, and are then provided with an embed code to use wherever you like.

The widget tool allows you to choose a source for your timeline, which can be a main feed, favorited tweets, a list or a search/hashtag. You can customize the height of the widget, as well as its theme and whether it expands photographs. You can also choose a link color and the domain where you’ll be embedding the timeline.

You’ll get a live preview of your timeline on the right side of the configuration tool. Once you create the widget, you’re presented with an embed code.

Embeddable timelines will work automatically on any site that already includes Twitter’s ‘widgets.js’ JavaScript which is used for embedded tweets or Twitter buttons. The script has been updated automatically to support the new features. There is more documentation on Twitter’s developer site that talks about things like overriding options locally and compatibility with assistive technology like ARIA.

The timelines work just fine in mobile browsers and are Retina-ready.

Timelines and context

Adding embeddable streams of hashtags will be a big draw for brands that want to display the tweets around a major campaign or event. This also effectively becomes an official ‘tweet widget’ that could replace all of the hack job WordPress plugins that people have been using to display their tweets.

The ability to display searches and lists in realtime gives a bit of flexibility to the whole procedure, there should be plenty of sites that will take a jump at this.

Most importantly, embedding a whole stream of tweets gives individually embedded tweets more context. Instead of just one or two tweets related to the conversation, viewers will now see the stream of tweets both before and after, allowing them to fit the content of that tweet into the larger picture without having to click out to Twitter or visit their favorite client to do so.

Obviously, quick comparisons will be drawn between this new feature and the embeddable tweet collection service Storify. Storify’s offering differs in that you can pick and choose which Tweets go into your collections, rather than having to choose everything that comes with a hashtag or search. Currently, Storify doesn’t offer the ability to embed streaming timelines of any type and I’m really doubting that it will ever get that ability considering Twitter’s strict new API rules. But Storify sprung up out of a desire to tell stories using tweets as building blocks, creating context out of bite-sized bits of information.

And it seems that Twitter saw some value in that and is moving to offer its users at least some of that functionality now. While the new embedded timelines seem tailor made to appeal to brands and for promotional use, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to see the possibilities of curated collections of tweets coming to the widgets section in the future.

Image: Mografik

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