Twitter revamped its timeline Wednesday, allowing the “best” tweets to rise to the top, despite warnings of a revolt from members loyal to the real-time flow of the messaging platform.
The tweaked format aims to inject new life into the struggling one-to-many messaging service by moving away from a pure chronological timeline to one determined by algorithm, as used by social network leader Facebook.
Twitter said the “Show me the best tweets first” feature is optional and that users can stick with tweets rushing by like leaves on a fast-moving river, if they prefer.
“You follow hundreds of people on Twitter — maybe thousands — and when you open Twitter, you may feel like you’ve missed their most important tweets,” senior engineering manager Mike Jahr said in a blog post.
“Starting today, you can choose a new timeline feature that helps you catch up on the most important tweets from the people you follow.”
The algorithm was most likely built on a “while you were away” feature that Twitter introduced about a year ago to show people notable posts they missed while not using the service.
“When you first open Twitter, the tweets you’re most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline — they are recent, and in reverse chronological order,” Jahr said.
“Then the rest of the tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always.”
Twitter users can refresh a page to begin seeing live, real-time tweets as usual, according to Jahr.
With the new feature, “we’ve improved the timeline by analysing how millions of people engage with billions of tweets,” said product marketing manager Eric Farkas.
“We’re using this information to determine the best content to surface. We use a person’s past Twitter activity to predict which tweets they might like to see most.”
The “Show me the best tweets first” feature is available to people accessing Twitter using a Web browser or applications on mobile devices powered by Apple or Android software.
“We’ve already noticed that people who have used this new feature tend to retweet and tweet more, which is good for everyone,” Jahr said.
Twitter planned to begin turning the feature on during coming weeks, sending people notifications to let them know about the change.
“If you love it, great,” Jahr said. “If you don’t, you can easily turn it off in settings.”
The new feature is being introduced as Twitter strives to expand its ranks of users and ramp the amount of time people spend at the service, as its stock plumbs new lows and fears rise about the future of Twitter.
Twitter shares slumped again on Tuesday to send its market value below $10 billion for the first time since its public offering in late 2013.
But reports of the timeline shift have already prompted protests from some users who say it may lead to the death of the platform, tweeting with the hashtag #RIPTwitter.
Twitter was set to release its quarterly results at the market close Wednesday, with investors intensely focused on growth in its user base.
In its last report, Twitter said it had 320 million monthly active users worldwide — only modestly up from 316 million in the prior quarter as it struggles to keep pace with Facebook and other fast-growing social networks.
Earlier this month, one report said venture capital powerhouse Marc Andreessen and the firm Silver Lake Partners is considering a deal, perhaps to acquire or take a controlling stake in San Francisco-based Twitter.
Twitter has been the target of takeover talk in the past, but none of the rumors have played out. That report came fresh on the heels of the firm announcing it is overhauling its top management in a major shakeup.
Twitter on Tuesday began making a revenue-focused change to its home page by reserving the top slot in timelines for videos that marketers pay to “promote.”
The “First View” feature aims to boost Twitter’s appeal to advertisers by allowing them to lock in the key position for a 24-hour period.
“Now, marketers can tell a powerful visual story across the Twitter audience,” a statement said.
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