Maria Montero

Twitter picks up Lightwell narrative app team on its latest …

Twitter’s ongoing long-term efforts to make conversations easier to follow and engage on its platform are getting a boost with the latest acquisition of the company. The company has assembled the team behind Lightwell, a startup that had created a suite of developer tools for creating interactive storytelling applications, for an undisclosed sum. Lightwell Founder and CEO Suzanne Xie is becoming director of the Twitter Conversations initiative, product leader, and the rest of her small team will join her on the conversations project.

(Side note: Sara Haider, who had been in charge of rethinking the design of Conversations on Twitter, most recently through the launch of twttr, Twitter’s new prototyping app, announced that she would be moving into a new project in the company after a short break. It’s not clear if twttr will go ahead as well – I ask).

The Lightwell / Twitter news was announced last night. both by Lightwell himself and Twitter Vice President of Product Keith Coleman. A Twitter spokesperson also confirmed the deal to TechCrunch in a brief statement today: “We are excited to welcome Suzanne and her team to Twitter to help drive the important work we are doing to serve the public conversation,” he said.

To be clear, this is more mandatory than hiring: only the Lightwell team (out of what seems like three people) is joining Twitter. The Lightwell product will no longer be developed, but it will not go away either. Xie noted in another Medium post that apps that have already been built (or plan to build) on the platform will continue to work. Now it will also be free to use.

Lightwell originally began life in 2012 as Hullabalu, as one of many companies producing interactive stories of original children’s content for smartphones and tablets. In a sea of ​​kid-centric storybook apps, Hullabalu’s stories stood out not just for the distinctive cast of characters the startup had created, but for the way the narratives were presented – part of the book, part From the interactive game, the stories engaged children and narratives were moved throughout by having users touch and drag items across the screen.

After a few years, Hullabalu saw an opportunity to package its technology and make it available as a platform for all developers, to be used not only by other creators of children’s content, but also by advertisers and more. It appears that the company changed at that point to make Lightwell its main focus. In her early life, she went through YCombinator, TechStars, and raised about $ 6.5 million in funding (through Crunchbase), from investors including Joanne Wilson, SV Angel, Vayner, Spark Labs, Great Oak, Scout Ventures, and more.

If turning Hullabalu into Lightwell was a pivot, then going to Twitter can be seen as another interesting change in the way talent and experience optimized for one extreme can be repurposed to meet another.

One of Twitter’s biggest challenges over the years has been trying to create a way to make conversations (also narratives of some sort) easy to follow, both for those who are power users and those who are not. are and that otherwise could be postponed from using the product.

The crux of the problem has been that Twitter’s DNA is all about rivers of real-time chat that flow in a single feed, while conversations by their nature linger around a specific topic and become difficult to follow when there is too much of it. people talking. Trying to build a way to tie the two concepts together has fooled the company for a long time.

At best, bringing in a new team from abroad will potentially give Twitter a fresh perspective on how to approach conversations on the platform, and the fact that Lightwell has been thinking of creative ways to present storytelling gives them Some credit as a group that completely new concepts could emerge to introduce conversations.

At a time when it seems like the conversation around Conversations has stalled, it’s good to see a new chapter open.