Twitter's Project Lightning will be a whole new way to track events

"Project Lightning" is the company's big effort to better highlight events on and off its app

Twitter's headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco

Twitter's headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco

Twitter is planning some big changes to the way people follow events using its service, with a major new feature that will group together tweets, photos and videos related to whatever's happening in the moment.

The move could make Twitter more useful for tracking current events at a time when its user growth is sagging. It's dabbled in the area of events before, but the new initiative, dubbed Project Lightning, should make it much easier to find content related to scheduled events like the Grammys or major news events such as an earthquake.

There'll be a new button on Twitter's mobile app that takes users to a page listing various events happening at that moment. Selecting one will take the user to a page of tweets, videos and photos related to that event. The content will be curated by Twitter staff, and users will be able to swipe through full-screen photos and videos.

Project Lightening will also be a way to engage people who aren't logged into Twitter. They'll be able to view the events on Twitter's website and in its app, and other websites will be able to embed the content.

The news was reported Thursday by BuzzFeed, which said the feature will launch later this year.

Mike Davidson, VP of design at Twitter, called the feature "one of the sharpest things we've ever designed."

CEO Dick Costolo referred to it as "a complete system for content curation and distribution on and off Twitter."

The feature puts a new editorial spin on Twitter's service. A team of editors with newsroom backgrounds will use data tools to understand emerging trends and locate the best content from Twitter, the report said. They'll select what they think are the best tweets for each event.

The feature appears to be aimed at offering a rich set of content. Each tweet, picture or video will fill the screen of the phone, and it will include video from Twitter's Vine and Periscope apps.

Twitter has been trying hard to expand the appeal of its service, particularly among less tech savvy users. It's possible to surface content around particular events today, but it involves understanding how to use Twitter's hashtags and search tools.

News of the feature's development comes amid the impending departure of Costolo, as the company faces rising pressure to increase its value to users and shareholders. Twitter's interim CEO will be Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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