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Twitter has begun rolling out a way for users to avoid missing important tweets from people that they follow. Starting today, the company will display a selection of the most interesting or popular tweets at the top of a user’s timeline, rather than showing the most recent, as it has done traditionally. Reports of this change, which could be viewed as an extension of Twitter’s “while you were away” feature, surfaced earlier this month.
This move toward an algorithimically driven timeline and away from the real-time feed is a bid by Twitter to make the service more appealing for new or casual users. It is also much less radical than many longtime users feared last week.
This update is available on Twitter’s iOS and Android apps, as well as the Web. It’s also something that users can opt out of, meaning that they can elect to use the classic version of the service if they choose.
To enable this feature, Twitter said you can go into your settings screen and choose “show me the best tweets first” within the timeline section. The company said that beta testers wound up posting and retweeting more often with this feature, “which is good for everyone.” This isn’t going to be available to everyone right away, but users will receive a notification in their timeline when the feature has been turned on for them.
Twitter says it’s not forcing this on anyone, and this feature could be viewed as one of its many experiments, especially as it seeks to not only grow its number of users, but also to convey a story about what the service is all about. In a blog post, senior engineering manager Mike Jahr wrote: “If you love it, great — we love it too!…We’d love your thoughts on how to keep making Twitter better, and will be listening and refining the experience over time.”
Many efforts have been made to improve Twitter’s timeline, both for user experience and in terms of how best to monetize the platform. Earlier this week, the company unveiled view and video ads that brands can use to capture your attention, and eventually your dollars. There was also an experiment displaying trending tweets at the top of the timeline.
This new algorithmic timeline bears some similarity to Facebook’s. On the latter’s social network, users can select which of their friends they want to receive updates from at the top of their News Feed.
Last Friday, BuzzFeed reported that an algorithmic timeline was coming, which got the community riled up and led to the massively trending hashtag #RIPTwitter. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to the service saying: “I want you all to know we’re always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.”
So while a complete revamp of the Twitter timeline hasn’t arrived, we’re getting something else that Dorsey alluded to in his tweets relating to the “while you were away” feature — perhaps a compromise?
For power users, this new version of Twitter may seem more confusing than it does to those that just signed up and want to know what’s interesting. But Twitter has the unenviable task of trying to appease both parties. This new feature may not manage that, but perhaps it will encourage non-active users to give the service a first or second shot.
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