Twitter lets hot tweets rise to top of timelines

Twitter said the “Show me the best tweets first” feature is optional.
Twitter said the “Show me the best tweets first” feature is optional.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP, REUTERS) - Twitter revamped its timeline on Wednesday (Feb 10), 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.”

Jahr did not detail what factors were being used to determine which tweets individual users might be most interested in seeing.

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.

The change to the timeline is also designed to appeal to advertisers by giving more prominence to tweets that advertisers pay for to promote products. Advertisers have said their ads can get lost in the reverse-chronological timeline.

The change comes just hours before Twitter reports fourth-quarter earnings to investors, who have been pressuring the company to increase user growth and ad revenue by making the product easier to use.

Reports that Twitter could be changing the timeline surfaced last week, prompting laments by users tweeting with the hashtag #RIPTwitter. They said using a customised, or algorithmic, timeline - similar to Facebook's News Feed - meant Twitter would lose one of its signature features.

The move to have tweets paid for by advertisers surface higher in individuals' timelines is expected to make it more likely users will respond to ads.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter's chief executive and co-founder, tried to reassure users in a series of tweets last week that Twitter would remain the place for live news and commentary. "Twitter is real-time. Twitter is about who & what you follow. And Twitter is here to stay! By becoming more Twitter-y," Dorsey wrote.

"We're going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!"