Twitter abruptly removes custom backgrounds; banner ads incoming?

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 22, 2015 11:55 IST
Twitter has stopped allowing users to set custom backgrounds.

Twitter abruptly stopped allowing users to set their own custom backgrounds, quietly turning off the much-loved feature and replacing it with a uniform light grey background.

The plain background is seen whether users are viewing their own Twitter page or the pages of other users. Only the top header image still appears.

Many tweeters are now complaining about the site's boring new look. The sudden change has also led to speculation that the the plain backgrounds will make way for advertising.

The change was initially made on Tuesday without an announcement, prompting many users to wonder if the site had broken. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the move was deliberate.

“We’re removing background images from the home and notifications timelines on web for all users,” the company said in a statement.

“Now, background images are only available where logged-in users will see them publicly (Tweet pages, list pages and collections pages). You can find help center content about customizing your design and where it's visible on Twitter here.”

The change doesn't seem to be going over well in the Twittersphere. Twitter had long offered the ability to display a background image as a way to spice up and promote a user's page to distinguish it from others. A user can still go into Twitter's settings and set up a background image that then appears on the user's page. But when the webpage is closed and reopened, the background image vanishes.

The last quarterly results showed Twitter has more than 302 million active users, but the social media giant has struggled to monetize its product.

In Q1 2015, the company reported a revenue of $436 million, which increased by 74% year-over-year in comparison with Q1 2014, but the numbers weren’t at par with Twitter's own guidance and Wall Street estimation, which predicted revenues could soar to $456.8 million.

This led to an 18% drop in stock value for the company.

The move could allow Twitter to design features and offer ads for the home and notifications page without worrying about colours clashing with unknown customisations, like it did with MySpace. One of the biggest reasons MySpace became so popular was because of the broad customisation it offered to its users, but that wildcard irritated its own designers and advertisers no end.

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