Say hello to a brand new Twitter. The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.
It is unclear whether Twitter will force users to use the algorithmic feed, or it will merely be an option.
Since Alex posted his article a few days ago, Casey Newton explained how it would work on The Verge:
The algorithm that will re-order your timeline is based on the one that ranks tweets for the “while you were away” feature that Twitter introduced a year ago. The best way to think of the new timeline is as an expanded version of this feature. Spend an entire day away from Twitter, and when you open the app again, you’ll see highlights from the day. If you open it up a few times a day, you’ll see a handful of “while you were away”-style sections breaking up the chronological tweets. And whenever you pull down to refresh your stream, it’s back to the regular, reverse-chronological timeline.
Here’s one way to think of it: scroll down through the timeline, and it’s like the Reddit homepage, showing the most popular things first. Scroll back up, and the feed turns into regular reverse-chronology Twitter. One tester told me that the new timeline will also show you related posts for popular tweets if you want to dive deeper. In any case, this will be the new Twitter by default — but you will be allowed to opt out of the new timeline, The Verge has confirmed.
As far I as I know, this change will not effect third party Twitter clients, such as Tweetbot [iOS / Mac] and Twitterrific [iOS] — they will continue to function as they have so far. Regular Twitter users will be able to opt out if they choose to, as far as Casey has learned at least.
First of all, I believe this should be an opt-in function — I can imagine many casual users getting confused about why their tweets are ordered in a seemingly random fashion. Secondly, the reason I stopped using Facebook was their algorithmic timeline — it never worked as I wanted it to. I hope Twitter doesn’t screw this up.
The Verge spoke to two users who have been testing the new timeline for a few months. Neither particularly liked it. “I started to get used to it but I still think that it is a terrible idea,” Twitter user Robin Bonny told me. “It tears conversations apart, and it’s really confusing when some people have been live-tweeting an event and those things get scattered all across my timeline. It makes it extremely hard to follow events, and destroys one of the core values of Twitter, in my opinion.”
I am extremely disappointed that Twitter never bothered to introduce a timeline position sync API, and I’m extremely thankful that Tapbots is doing such excellent work on Tweetbot. If not for the latter, I would probably have stopped using Twitter a long time ago.