There have been rumors and fears for quite some time that Twitter would one day implement an algorithmic timeline, which would essentially be its equivalent to Facebook's News Feed. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like many users want that.
Would you favor an algorithmic approach to the Twitter timeline? Should they make it an option? Should they just leave things alone altogether? Tell us what you think.
Fueling the rumors, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto recently spoke at the Citi Global Technology Conference about priorities at the company, which according to The Wall Street Journal, include an algorithm-driven content feed, a better search engine, and group chatting. I don't think many will complain about better search or group chatting, but that algorithm-driven content feed part has people up in arms.
The WSJ reports:
Twitter’s timeline is organized in reverse chronological order, a delivery system that has not changed since the product was created eight years ago and one that some early adopters consider sacred to the core Twitter experience. But this “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user,” Noto said. Timely tweets can get buried at the bottom of the feed if the user doesn’t have the app open, for example. “Putting that content in front of the person at that moment in time is a way to organize that content better.”
Some reactions from users:
I hope they won't change my beloved Twitter. "Why Twitter Should not Algorithmically Curate the Timeline" http://t.co/ELHtAYCxlg
— Jodi Gersh (@jodiontheweb) September 5, 2014
Hey @twitter, how about this algorithm? I follow someone. In my timeline, show all from that someone, in chronological order. Simple fix.
— Stacey Randolph (@4n6woman) September 5, 2014
— David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid) September 5, 2014
— Jessassin (@Jessassin) September 5, 2014
Not sure I love this move. "Killing Twitter: Why Algorithmic Timeline Spells The End Of The Revolution" http://t.co/frjZDrJ2TY
— Kate Brodock (@Just_Kate) September 5, 2014
Twitter may algorithmically filter timeline (like FB): http://t.co/3G8kJYlma1 while I empathize w/ their logic, I'd miss seeing everything
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) September 5, 2014
If Facebook’s algorithm can be gamed like this, imagine how bad Twitter would be without a linear timeline. https://t.co/dlJuppewNt
— Craig Scrogie (@craigscrogie) September 5, 2014
My only request: Give us the option to choose. | The future of Twitter: Timeline algorithms. http://t.co/1V1ic0RbyC
— AndreaSauceda (@AndreaSauceda) September 5, 2014
Imagine what a Twitter-curated timeline would have looked like during Ferguson. Imagine the voices not deemed "relevant" by an algorithm.
— Heather McLendon (@hemclendon) September 4, 2014
If you're wondering why I unfollowed you; it's because I'm putting everyone in secret lists so that Twitter can't mess with my timeline.
— Cary Hartline (@caryhartline) September 5, 2014
I'd have included tweets in favor of the change if I saw any.
Suffice it to say, a lot of people are frustrated with Twitter right now, even though the big changes haven't gone into effect yet (if they even do). The company is, however, also responsible for the death of Twitpic apparently.
Twitter has already started to tinker with the Timeline a bit, adding favorites from people you follow, for example, though as CEO Dick Costolo said, these only appear when you refresh your timeline twice and they have no additional content to show you. You're more likely to see that stuff if you don't follow many accounts.
The kind of change Noto seems to be referring to would make Twitter much more Facebook-like, and that means your organic reach will be in jeopardy just as it has been on Facebook. Getting in front of your followers will be at the mercy of Twitter, who is pushing advertising more than ever.
We may see some controversial days ahead.
Of course some tweets would benefit from an algorithmic approach. As Twitter's analytics made clear, most tweets already aren't getting a great amount of reach to begin with. The algorithm approach could mean more visibility for more of your content, which could lead to things like more web traffic and more conversions. But it would still be at the mercy of Twitter, and it would ultimately come down to what kind of content Twitter felt like showing to users. Obviously, they want you to spend money on advertising, so it's hard to imagine the benefits for unpaid content would outweigh the need to pay to play.
What do you think? Is an algorithmic Twitter Timeline a good idea? Let us know in the comments.
Image via Twitter