Just in. Twitter just announced, that they are “excited to share a new timeline feature with you”. Based on your previous behavior (impressions, likes, retweets, I presume), Twitter will now place the 140-character blog posts you’re most likely to care about, at the top of your feed. The more you use the feature, and the more you interact with tweets, the more accurate the suggestions get over time.
Wait. Before you lose your shit, and start screaming “Death to Twitter”, I should probably let you know that this is an opt-in feature. Meaning that if you want to keep your timeline the way it is, then you can, and life will go on.
How does it work?
Glad you asked. If you flip on the feature in your settings, when you open the Twitter app, after being away for a while, the tweets you’re most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline. The tweet stream we’re all used to, will continue to flow, just underneath – arranged in the usual reverse chronological order.
So, on iOS, it’s Timeline > Timeline Personalisation > Show me the best tweets first, and on Android, it’s Timeline > Show me the best tweets first.
Whenever you’re done reading the suggested tweets, you can simply pull-to-refresh, and your timeline returns to its default state. A waterfall.
Why would Twitter introduce this feature?
I consider Twitter to be a lot more than a social network. It’s a platform. A completely different way to interact with content – and people, too. But, as a business, it doesn’t look so promising. Wall street doesn’t like stagnant metrics. And Twitter’s has been for a while now, because the experience is rather esoteric.
Recently, in an attempt to grow its user base, TWTR (the company) started making changes to the service. Making it more…user friendly. Introducing polls, changing the quote-tweet feature, changing favorites to likes, and even a rumoured removal of the 140-characters limit, etc.
In each case, Twitter users went nuts, and protested against any changes they may want to make to the service. That is, until they didn’t anymore. Everyone adapted, and new tropes were formed off the back of new features.
The most recent outcry was #RIPTwitter, started when rumors came out, that Twitter would soon roll out an algorithmic timeline, much like Facebook’s. The logic goes, “if Facebook is so successful, then doing the things Facebook is doing, will make Twitter successful”.
But if there’s one thing Facebook lacks that Twitter has, it’s the real-time nature of the conversations that take place. Spontaneity. It’s easy to see why everyone started losing their shit, at the mere suggestion that, that was going to be taken away from them.
But the way I see it, newer content doesn’t necessarily mean better. What Twitter is trying to do, is drive up interaction, by presenting you with the content you’re most likely to interact with. The content they think you’ll like best. Or at least, they’ll give you the option.
It’s also easy to see how they can monetise this new feature: offer paid access to user timelines, to any brands that are looking for targeted advertising. Either way, it looks like a win-win, for the social network.
We’ll find out soon enough, how it works out for them.
Note: Not everyone has the feature, at the moment. I don’t, on any of my Twitter accounts. It appears it will be rolled out gradually, in the coming weeks.