Today Twitter has started rolling out one of the most important and fundamental changes that it has made yet: a major tweak to the timeline. We knew that something was coming along these lines, it has not been a secret that Twitter has been testing ways of implementing an algorithm into the timeline.
Twitter is hoping that this will be a feature that attracts more new users to the platform as well as retaining current users on the platform. The idea is that Twitter will show you more tweets that you care about and that interest you.
Twitter has discovered through their own extensive customer research that a lot of users who logged onto Twitter felt as if they were missing out, the “while you were away” feature simply wasn’t providing enough meaningful content to take that away and as a result Twitter has been going after the issue and come up with a plan which will allow more users to feel included.
Before you start freaking out it is important to realise that this is not the big bad algorithm overhaul of Facebook. Twitter was never ever going to go down the Facebook route of using an algorithm for all of their content, that would without doubt be the end of the service. Twitter knows how important the “live” feeling is behind the platform, this is where big news now breaks and it is important that they do not let go of that.
Now, when you log into Twitter the first tweets at the top of the timeline may not be the latest ones. Instead they will be a selection of tweets which Twitter thinks you may be interested in based on a variety of different factors and data that Twitter has collected from your use on the social network.
It is somewhat similar to the “while you were away” feature except that nothing will be labelled, the tweets will just appear as per normal in the timeline. There is no actual limit as to how many tweets could surface at the top of the timeline however Twitter say that the average is around a dozen.
Now for even more reason not to start worrying. The feature is rolling out to the web platform as well as iOS and Android users today. However at the moment it is opt-in only so unless you go into your settings and switch it on yourself, nothing will change at the moment.
However, at some point over the next few weeks Twitter will automatically turn the feature on for everyone. You will see a popup at some stage which will say “Never miss an important tweet,” followed by a brief explanation as to how your timeline will now be organised. But don’t worry! If you don’t like it you will be able to go back into the settings and turn it off which will revert you to the standard reverse chronological timeline.
I was skeptical when I first heard about a Twitter algorithm some time ago however I must say that they way they have chosen to implement it is pretty much perfect for what Twitter is in essence.
The new timeline could end up serving a great little collection of tweets at the top of the timeline which you would have otherwise missed. The problem Twitter has had is that it is so fast paced right now so it doesn’t matter how much of a power user you are – there will be something that you end up missing.
I always find that I miss something and only notice it some time later when the moment is gone so I am looking forward to seeing if this new feature can help me to stay engaged in a way that I may have missed out on before. Twitter’s testing so far has shown that users who have seen the new timeline have generally retweeted and started conversations more than they had done so without the timeline.
It is important that we keep some perspective here. People who are ranting and raving on Twitter about the new timeline changes are worried about what will happen if the whole timeline gets the algorithm treatment. That is never going to happen, and the fear is that by moving away from a raw unedited live feed, Twitter will lose its identity and its unique selling point.
Try it out, give it a few days to adjust and it will end up feeling like regular old Twitter again, in fact it could end up feeling better than it did before. Like I mention above, you don’t have to use the new timeline feature as well, you can turn it off in settings if you wish when Twitter switches it on for everyone.