You might know Twitch as that livestreaming site where people watch other people play video games. But in the last couple of years, Twitch has been evolving into much more than just a haven for gamers. There are a number of great channels devoted to art and creativity. You can even find cooking streams!
Ever since its inception as a gaming-centric offshoot of Justin.tv, Twitch has been constantly changing aesthetically and functionally, especially since its acquisition by Amazon. In the last year, it has introduced several features that are very familiar to users of social media, including instant private messaging, news feeds, and now a friend system.
So is Twitch on its way to becoming a social media site, albeit one focused around livestreaming? Here are the basic “social media-like” features currently on Twitch, what they do, and how they might be improved.
While Twitch has a private inbox, it is so susceptible to spam that Twitch introduced an “Other” tab specifically for such messages. It’s also not an instant messaging service by any means, which used to make private communication between individual users on Twitch someone limited. In June 2015, Twitch introduced its private chat system, called “whispering.”
Originally, whispers were incorporated into the main chat panel. Users would see their whispers in a slightly different background color, to differentiate them from the normal chat, and the whispers would pass at the same speed as the rest of the chat. Unfortunately, this meant that it hampered the ability for two Twitch users to carry on a private conversation – presumably the original intent – in a fast-moving chat.
Twitch has now redone whispers, so that they will appear in a tab at the bottom of the screen, almost identical to Facebook’s in-browser chat. This allows you to chat with other users outside of any particular streamer’s chat room, eliminates the chance that personal whispers will be lost in a fast-moving chat, and makes it easier for users to block other users or report harassment.
How It Could Be Improved: Currently, it is awkward having a separate interface for the private messages and the whispers. Since Twitch is already emulating Facebook in the new design of whispers, they could follow their lead by merging the two messaging systems, at least in location. Twitch could give users the option of marking whispers from friends as important, thus adding them to a page that includes the private message inbox.
Twitch Channel Feed
In early April, Twitch rolled out an open beta for their Channel News Feed feature. Before then, the only way for streamers to communicate announcements or information to their followers was through other social media platforms. But now they can do so directly from Twitch itself by posting on their Channel Feed, which conveniently also allows you to share posts directly to Twitter simultaneously.
Twitch’s Channel Feed posts function like a bulletin board. They appear on a channel next to the Panels, which are for images, links, and static information. Viewers can also respond to posts in a Facebook-esque way, expressing their reaction via Twitch emoji. Currently, it’s easier to share your Feed posts to other social media via the mobile Twitch app than it is from the website. But it’s only a matter of time before Twitch is integrated into apps that allow you to share posts to multiple social media outlets simultaneously.
How It Could Be Improved: One of the downsides of this channel is that the only way a follower will see a Channel Feed post is to visit the channel itself. There is no way they can have a feed of Feeds from multiple channels on, for example, a Twitter-like Newsfeed of its own. Since Twitch already allows users to turn on notifications to alert them when a streamer goes live, they could allow them to get the same notifications about a new post in the Channel Feed.
Most recently, Twitch has started an invite-only beta for its Friends system, an emulation of Facebook’s massive friend’s lists. If you are invited into the beta, you will notice an updated panel, including a list of which of your friends are online, pending friend requests, and rearranged buttons. From here, you can click on a Friend’s picture and instantly either go to their channel or whisper them.
This is helpful for two reasons: First, it lets you see which of your Friends are online and available to chat, whereas up to this point you would only know if you happened to be in the same active chat as they were. And second, instantly going to a Friend’s channel means you can see either their stream or the channel they are hosting, which could only be done before by going through the “Following” tab.
How It Could Be Improved: Currently, all the Friend system allows you to do is have Friends, and that’s it. At the present time, the only benefit to having someone on your Friends list is that it makes it easier to whisper to them. In both the real world and social media, there’s more to being a friend than that!
Twitch could make the Friend system more meaningful, perhaps by having the aforementioned page for Friend whispers. Maybe Friends could have limited moderating duties in each other’s channels? At the very least, Twitch should have a setting that indicates which of your Friends are currently streaming, as opposed to just a green bubble indicating “Online.”
Also, since Twitch is primarily a streaming site, it might be welcome if Twitch Friends could stream together, or have their own channels automatically stream the channel of the person with whom they’re streaming, so that their own followers would be able to find and watch them. Think of it as a bigger version of Facebook tagging.
What Do You Think About Twitch’s Social Features?
Twitch’s popularity lies not just in its content, but also its capacity for fostering strong and loyal communities based around various games and streamers. It even allows viewers to directly support the streamers via paid Twitch subscriptions. In a way, it is already almost a social site, and it obviously aspires to strengthen that sense of community by emulating Facebook and Twitter.
Do you think Twitch has the capacity to be a social media site? What do you think of their new features? In what ways could the features could be further improved? Let us know in the comments below!