There’s another big expanse of screen real estate up for grabs on Twitter. For a long time, it was where you could put a custom wallpaper behind your profile. But now, the social network has killed that in favour of plain blue.
Twitter killing custom profile backgrounds is a) getting read to plaster ads there
b) saying users' individuality counts for squat.
— ?Mic Wright ? (@brokenbottleboy) July 21, 2015
Does that matter? Surely it’s just trivial right? You could argue – and I’m sure Twitter would – that it’s simply about consistency. Facebook has always limited profile customisation, desperate to avoid becoming the animated GIF and glitter circle jerk of old-school MySpace.
But reducing the ways in which users can tweak and refine their profile is worthy of comment. That huge expanse behind profiles and individual tweets is tempting for Twitter – that’s hundreds of millions of billboards going to waste every day.
@brokenbottleboy Creepy really. Given that real estate is currently "owned" by the user, it now suggests that the user is owned by the ad.
— James Clark ??? (@mr_james_c) July 21, 2015
Sponsored tweets and app ads in the feed are one thing, as is ensuring that Twitter ads also migrate to Web sites where content from the network is shared, but backgrounds give another shop window for (virtually) full screen promos. Remember, Twitter has even experimented with selling ad space on your follower screen.
Right now, I’m speculating but I don’t believe that Twitter has killed custom backgrounds to simply leave that space a uniform color forever. It hasn’t even consistently implemented the change yet – custom imagery is still popping up behind individual tweets, even where profiles have been cleansed.
What the reduction in customisability on Twitter says – as the shabby treatment of third-party developers did before it – is that your words and pictures serve one overriding purpose: They are there as something for the advertisers to wrap their messages around.
Your Twitter account is a mote of dust in the Twitter god’s eye and that god is staring at a really cool new ad about drinking Coke. Why would it waste all that glorious space on your dumb attempts at self-expression?
Image credit: GIPHY