Twitter is testing higher-quality and bigger images in the timeline

Twitter is addressing some of the biggest frustrations around sharing photos and videos, including better previews of how images will show up on your timeline. Although tweets are best known for their relatively terse 280 character limit, plenty of people use Twitter to share multimedia; however figuring out just what followers will actually see can be unexpectedly tricky.

That's because, while you can upload photos of any aspect, Twitter's algorithm makes decisions about which section of the image will be cropped in order to make it fit the standard thumbnail preview. The rules vary according to how many photos you attach at a time: Twitter supports up to four per tweet, or one video.

It can mean that, in some cases, the thumbnail bears little relation to what the intended focus of the image is. That's let to frustration among some, but also the "click for a surprise" meme where opening a cropped image reveals an unexpected surprise of some sort. Now, Twitter says it's going to make understanding just how images will be displayed more transparent, though it's not fully addressing the annoyance.

Currently testing in the iOS and Android Twitter apps, "when you Tweet a single image, how the image appears in the Tweet composer is how it will look on the timeline," the company said today. Basically, if you're tweeting out a single, portrait-aspect image – i.e. one that is taller than it is wide – the whole image will be displayed on the timeline, not just a crop of it.

Unfortunately that doesn't seem to extend to how tweets with multiple images are handled. Or, for that matter, understanding how Twitter's cropping algorithm decides which section of the image is most important.

The other change to media is around quality. Another test on the iOS and Android apps is for high-quality image uploads. That will support up to 4K pictures, a change from the current limit of 5MB per image.

You'll need to actively enable that first, however. A new section in the "Data usage" part of the Twitter app settings now has options for high-quality images and high-quality image uploads, which can be enabled for WiFi only, or cellular and WiFi connections.

Not everyone will see the new features, with Twitter saying that it's testing them over the next few weeks to see what the response is like.