Twitter provides access to mobile apps from within tweets

Updates to the Android and iPhone Twitter apps will support an expansion to the Cards program for developers

Twitter's in-the-moment stream of quick comments and links might seem tailor-made for those with short attention spans, but the company is rolling out changes that will make tweets more interactive, including the ability to access mobile apps from inside a tweet.

The changes were presented to developers on Tuesday evening and will be supported in updates to Twitter's Android and iPhone apps that were announced Wednesday, as well as in updates to mobile.twitter.com and Twitter's main desktop service.

Tweets typically have a limit of 140 characters, but last June Twitter rolled out a new "Cards" feature that allows partners such as newspaper publishers to incorporate more content in their tweets, which users can see by clicking the "Expand" or "View summary" link at the bottom of the tweet.

When Cards first launched, the expanded content was limited to summaries of articles and other content, as well as larger photos and in-stream video, music and media players.

Soon, users will see three new types of content in expanded tweets: mobile apps, which they'll be able to download and open from inside a tweet; photo galleries, which will display a preview of a gallery instead of just an individual image; and product listings, which will show images and descriptions of a product, along with two customizable fields for information such as price or ratings.

If an expanded tweet on a smartphone shows a photo from Flickr, for example, the user will be able to tap a link to open the photo in the Flickr app, or install the app if it's not installed on a device already.

The new types of content will be supported in a new version of Twitter for Android that was announced Wednesday, and in updates to the iPhone version of Twitter and mobile.twitter.com. The updates will roll out over the next several days, Twitter said in a blog post.

The new Android app also has a new design intended to be better suited to that OS, including wider and taller timelines that fill the screen and the ability to navigate between tabs by swiping, Twitter said.

The expanded tweets are enabled by a new version of Twitter Cards for developers. More forms of expanded tweets seem to be on the way too.

"With this update to Cards, we've fundamentally re-architected the way Cards are created and delivered," said Jason Costa, of Twitter's platform. "The new Cards system lays a foundation that will make it easier for us to develop more types of Cards in the future and allow for greater customization by publishers and developers," he said.

On Twitter, some developers commended Cards' scale-up. "Okay this is kind of awesome, deep linking app data in Twitter cards + linking to the app in the App Store if they don't have it," one person tweeted.

"This functionality is a positive move for developers," Gartner analyst Brian Blau said, adding that there has been some "pent-up demand" for these types of features since Cards launched last year.

He doesn't think the new content types will make the Twitter interface cluttered. "I don't think Twitter will stray too far from their clean and simple focus," Blau said.

Twitter is launching the new Card features with partners including Etsy, Flickr, Foursquare, Path, SoundCloud and Vine.

The updated apps can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple App Store.

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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