Twitter’s New Tuning

As of a few weeks ago, we’ve learned that Twitter is introducing a new algorithmic timeline, that is similar to how Facebook organizes its user feeds.

Time for a change?

As of right now, users have the option to start using these new settings and see if they like the new style. This new idea caused an uproar with many heavy users of the social network, saying they felt upset that Twitter was losing its live aspect. CEO Jack Dorsey immediately tried to ease fears by saying: “We love the live stream. It’s us. And we’re going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!” He however didn’t deny the new direction the algorithm was going, and instead said: “Twitter can help make connections in real-time based on dynamic interests and topics, rather than a static social/friend graph.”

 

How does it look?

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Visually the timeline is going to look exactly the same as it has been, the difference will just be the chronological order of tweets shown. Above you can see how the new timeline looks as well as how to set it up on your smartphone. The whole algorithm itself is just an enhanced version of the “while you were away,” feature that Twitter began using about a year ago. It too at first garnered some complaints, but eventually was well received by users. The overall concept is that when you go on to your twitter feed after a decent period of absence, your tweets on your timeline will be in order of popularity and essentially show what you’ve missed. Once you’ve finished catching up through this new format, you can simply refresh the stream and will go back to the normal reverse-chronological timeline.  

 

So how will this ultimately affect you?

With 78% of twitter users saying they check the network only once a day or less, this new algorithm will be pretty useful in giving them more preferred content in a shorter period of time. High level employees of Twitter have said that although it will be a big change at first, it ultimately will improve the user experience. Former product manager of the timeline Paul Rosania very plainly put that “someday soon, the tweets you see will be a little more interesting, and the tweets you miss won’t be as important.” With that being said, users will have the opportunity to opt out of the new timeline in the beginning once it becomes the default.

 

Key takeaways?

The ultimate goal of the new timeline is to improve the relevance and importance of the content we see in order to increase eyeballs and give a much needed shot in the arm to their anemic user growth of less than 1.3%.  The “while you were away” feature could possibly create new opportunities for advertisers and content providers but that remains to be seen.

Twitter’s core attribute has always been an ability to deliver content in real time. If the algorithm disrupts this then expect power users to start looking for alternatives and advertisers to follow. Most of these users want to live tweet, see visuals and information about world events firsthand, and have constant real time flow of conversations with other users.  Twitter’s ultimate test will be if it can find the balance between a smarter organization of content and keeping their core user base happy. As with most new features the real world implementation will be infinitely more critical to the overall success than the academic hypothesis.