Twitter was overflowing with alarmist complaints on Friday after BuzzFeed reported that the company was planning on introducing an algorithm-based timeline.
Alex Kantrowitz, from the original BuzzFeed News article:
Say hello to a brand new Twitter. The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.
Of course, in the aftermath of this shitstorm, Jack Dorsey attempted to calm everyone’s fears by reassuring them that Twitter wasn’t going to pivot away from its realtime nature. But it was definitely not a denial of the rumor.
Since then it’s come to light that users will be able to opt-out of the feature and that it should feel more like an expanded version of the “while you were away” block that’s appeared in timelines for the past year — something that I didn’t even know existed until today.
I was a bit worried about this rumor when it first cropped up on Friday, but the feeling didn’t last long. Changes like this often have no impact on me at all, and if they do, typically not until months after their release. You see, I use Tweetbot — as believe everyone should — and Twitter has a habit of leaving third-party clients without APIs for their newest features. Which I’m fine with.
For the most part, I think the majority of features that have been added to Twitter over the last few years have only detracted from what made the service so great in the first place. I preferred their earlier, more simplistic approach which left a little bit more of the burden on the user to find what’s interesting and kept everyone’s focus on what people were actually saying. This is why I’ll continue to use third-party clients for as long as I’m able to.
But I’m fully aware that I’m in the minority with this sentiment. I get that most new users have a hard time finding people to follow and that helping them along the way is better for user retention. And I also understand that most users don’t check their timeline 15-20 times a day like I do. Those users would benefit from having an algorithm-ordered timeline which surfaces the most interesting tweets for them.
If you preferred Twitter the way it was 1-2 years ago and are still using Twitter’s official app, I encourage you to give Tweetbot, Twitterrific, or some other third-party client a try. They might cost a few bucks, but are well worth it for — what I’d consider to be — a superior user experience. But if you’d rather go along for the ride to see what this new feature — and what many more in the future — have to offer, more power to you. There’s no reason why we can’t both enjoy Twitter the way we want to.
We can all put our pitchforks away and get back to talking about the latest sportsball game and discussing the viability of iOS as your primary computing platform. Because that’s what Twitter was made for.