By Vlad Vidaeff
It’s no secret that Twitter has been in a state of flux lately: the company has been playing musical chairs with its executives, its stock price has plummeted, and it’s planning to eliminate its iconic 140-character limit. In another major change, Twitter has recently introduced a ‘best Tweets first’ timeline. This blog will discuss the features of this new update and whether it’s a solid decision for Twitter’s short-term and long-term growth goals.
Here’s how the new timeline works: when you open Twitter after being away for a bit, you will see the Tweets that you are most likely to care about at the top of your timeline. These are Tweets coming from the users that you interact and engage with frequently. However, Twitter has denied that it is now populating users’ timelines using an algorithm similar to Facebook’s. Instead, the distinction is that only a certain number of Tweets appear at the top of the timeline. The number of Tweets is not definitive and is impacted by the number of users that the individual in question is following. After this group of best Tweets, the next group of Tweets appear in Twitter’s classic reverse chronological order. Furthermore, users have the option of opting out of the new scheme if they would like.
Twitter’s reasoning behind the decision is that it will enhance the user experience. By featuring the Tweets you care about the most, you are less likely to miss out on updates from your favorites. However, the minuses outweigh the positives in my opinion. First, if you are following someone who is live Tweeting an event, it is possible that if several of those Tweets appear in the ‘best’ section of the timeline, they may appear out of order. This could cause confusion, as the Tweets are not necessarily populating in chronological order. Second, part of what makes Twitter special is the platform’s penchant for breaking news. Once a newsworthy event occurs, you can often find out about it first by logging onto Twitter and looking at the top of your timeline. With the new timeline, you may have to scroll down to discover breaking news.
The third reason is more theoretical in nature. Through the series of changes that Twitter has been making, it seems like the platform is trying to become more like Facebook. Sure, Twitter’s new timeline is not completely based on an algorithm, but it has aspects that are reminiscent of Facebook’s algorithm. Facebook is the leader and they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. However, at the same time, you are throwing away part of what has made your platform unique and iconic. You also run the risk of alienating your existing user base by making significant changes to the Twitter experience. Twitter’s recent changes have certainly been “splash-worthy,” but they are more akin to belly flops than gracious dives.