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  • Meerelle Cruz

Twitter Acquires Sphere, a Chat App, to Strengthen Its Communities Push

Twitter's new Communities feature doesn't appear to have taken off yet, but the company is working to improve the format and add more features, leading to the creation of Twitter groups and a new surface for more topic-focused engagement in the app. And today, Twitter announced the acquisition of chat app Sphere to aid in expanding its Communities project.

Sphere is focused on community chats and optimizing relevant engagement inside each group to help develop bonds and maximize employment, as you can see in these screens. Zen Flow' system, which attempts to emphasize the most relevant group chat aspects for each member, and 'Appreciations,' which are community stickers and tools that allow individuals to recognize top contributors, are key features on this front.

According to Sphere, the stream automatically clears out outdated or unnecessary chats to keep groups from feeling chaotic. Their conversations highlight essential topics (such as polls, events, and announcements) and encourage users to respond. People are encouraged to express genuine gratitude by their unique appreciation.

This may not sound all that different from other group offerings, but Twitter's discussion-highlighting algorithms, which work to highlight the most relevant elements to each user, could be precious, while its incentive tools could also help to improve Twitter's Communities offering and make it a more compelling space. It does, however, have a challenge ahead of it. While the concept of Twitter communities makes sense in terms of providing a way to engage in conversation around specific topics in the app rather than broadcasting every tweet, its practical value is limited, given that most users have already curated their tweet communities based on whom they follow in the app. Furthermore, the possibility of lowering your tweet reach and interaction by posting solely to a Community is unlikely to pique consumers' interest.

Looking through many tweet communities thus far, this appears to be a widespread problem — tweets within communities that aren't seen by all of your followers. However, only members of that group generally see considerably less participation, and the accompanying dialogue isn't flowing in each. Of course, that's anecdotal, and Twitter would better understand what's going on in its communities as a whole. However, Communities appears to go against the platform's 'public square' essence and may be an unusual fit. But perhaps Sphere's more advanced algorithms and tools can assist, and probably if Twitter implements some of Sphere's engagement prompts and recognitions, this will help make Twitter Communities more lively and engaged, giving it the boost it needs to become a more prominent alternative.

It's the latest step in Twitter's larger drive to broaden its products and become a more comprehensive connection tool in various ways as it seeks to increase usage and revenue. In January, Twitter purchased newsletter provider Revue, and in May, it acquired the online reader platform Scroll, both of which have now been folded into new on-platform products that are broadly aligned with its premium subscription features.

Sphere appears to be less likely to become a paid feature, but as Twitter expands its focus on topic-based interaction and community building in the app, it may provide some crucial engagement elements that differentiate its group offering and make it more interesting in-app experience.

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