Twitter expanded content update: Banner ads by another name?

In a move apparently designed to attract advertisers ahead of its upcoming stock market flotation, Twitter has introduced expanded video and image content to its users' Twitter feeds.

The change means that any picture or video tweeted by a user automatically appears as a preview beneath the text of their tweet, with no option to remove it.

While Twitter has claimed that its new format allows users to share and view their content more easily, many users have expressed dismay at what they see as unwarranted pandering to advertisers.

Some users have even complained that Twitter is now effectively selling "banner ads".

This is because so-called "promoted tweets", a system whereby companies pay to have certain tweets given extra exposure, will now involve more visually arresting imagery. Advertisers can include pictures and even videos of their products that will appear on users' timelines without their consent.

While this will likely improve the advertisements' click-through rate (CTR), it could backfire if users are irritated or overwhelmed by the glut of new imagery.

Some have also criticised what they see to be the duplicitous nature of Twitter's announcements on the subject of the update.

However, some have reacted less negatively, suggesting that the change could result in a better experience for Twitter users.

The move is seen as an attempt to increase the financial prospects for company ahead of its initial public offering set for 7 November.

Twitter last week said that it would price its IPO shares at $17 (£10.58) to $20 (£12.45) a piece, valuing the online messaging company at up to about $11 billion (£6.85 billion), slightly lower than the $15 billion (£9.33 billion) that analysts expected.

A more comprehensive and attractive advertising package may help reassure top investors that the San Francisco-based microblogging site is a solid prospect for the future. Still, if the price of that is undermining the loyalty of its over 550 million users, in the long term Twitter could be doing itself more harm than good.