BuzzFeed reports that Twitter will be rolling out a nice, new update next week that will completely upend the reverse-chronological timeline central to the service and replace it with an algorithmic solution that sorts tweets by relevance. The Verge’s rundown of the news is a bit more comprehensive and has a few lines that cause me to question Twitter’s future as the chronological timeline I’ve relied on it to be for the past nine years.
In 2014, CFO Anthony Noto said displaying tweets in reverse chronological order “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user.” And in reference to last year’s tests, a spokesperson said, “We’re continuing to explore ways to surface the best content for people using Twitter.”
I understand that the $TWTR stock has taken a beating on the stock market for perfectly legitimate reasons, lately, but at what point does a corporate financial officer end up being able to point at the product and saying ‘our product is broken, folks’? I would absolutely copy Facebook instead?’
And this gem about the rational behind these changes make me question Dorsey’s stewardship of one of the tent=pole services on the Internet.
CEO Jack Dorsey is determined to make Twitter more user friendly and intuitive for people just starting out with the service. Since a lot of them are probably also using Facebook, they’re already accustomed to seeing friends’ posts out-of-order. If Twitter can nail the execution (that’s a massive if), this could in many ways make the product more valuable for more people.
At least the first reports from users (like @joshsternberg, below) familiar with Twitter’s higher-end advertising system suggest that the anti-chronological timeline will be an opt-in feature, instead of brute-forcing their entire user base to adopt a new standard for tweets on the service.
Sources at Twitter tell me algorithms are strictly opt in.
— Josh Sternberg (@joshsternberg) February 6, 2016
I still don’t like it for the same reason that I don’t rely on Facebook to keep up with friends’ lives over there: if I can’t keep up a chronological context, I might as well be reading some sort of science fiction story or something pretentious.