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Twitter Experiments With a New Video-Sharing Feature

You might see a lot more video in your timeline. Here's what it could look like.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

So it doesn’t look like Twitter is going to get into the audio business, after all. But Twitter has liked video for quite a while.

And it looks like it’s experimenting with a new product that could encourage more people to use it as a video platform — a feature that makes it easy to embed, display and play clips on phones.

The best way to play with the feature — pointed out to me by a helpful tipster — is to pick up an iPhone, open the Twitter app and start composing a new message with the “#amillionwaystodieinthewest” hashtag.

But if you don’t have an iPhone handy, I’m happy to illustrate what happens:

As you type in the hashtag, you’ll notice that some of the results that pop up in the automatic results field include a video “provided by” “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” Universal’s new Seth MacFarlane comedy.

If you click on one of those those, you’ll see a screenshot from a clip appear at the bottom of your message composition field:

And if you click on the image, the clip will immediately start playing. This looks like the same one-click video playing capability that Twitter recently started using for its “Amplify” ads, and which its ad team is very excited about:

And from there you can click another button to automatically include the clip in a Tweet you want to send out:

This doesn’t appear to be a paid ad — note that Twitter is telling users that the video is “provided by” the movie, not “promoted by” — but it’s easy enough to imagine how Twitter could offer the feature to advertisers.

Or it could simply provide it to publishers/distributors it wants to encourage to send more video through its system, the way it already does with Web publishers that use its “cards” system.

I suppose it’s also possible for Twitter to open up the feature to all of its 255 million unique users and create a YouTube-like video-sharing platform that’s open to the public. But I doubt that, since storing and serving all that video is enormously expensive and hard to monetize. Also, YouTube already exists.

I asked Twitter’s PR team for comment on the experiment, and they offered up their boilerplate “We experiment all the time” line.

But they’ve been quite clear that they want more video in your timeline, one way or another. Maybe it will be this way.

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