Amid Freak Out, Dorsey Debunks Idea that Twitter Will Become More Like Facebook
There's a meltdown happening on Twitter over a Buzzfeed report that Twitter may soon switch to an "algorithmic" method of displaying tweets by relevance, instead of the current way of showing them in reverse-chronological order, like a backward timeline.
In other words, Twitter might be thinking of becoming more like Facebook, which guesses what users will be interested in and shows those posts first. People can always switch back to a straight timeline on Facebook, but the setting isn't easy to find.
Twitter did not comment on the report, but CEO Jack Dorsey appeared to debunk it late Saturday afternoon:
Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we're always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
Twitter is live. Twitter is real-time. Twitter is about who & what you follow. And Twitter is here to stay! By becoming more Twitter-y.— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
Look at "while you were away" at the top of your TL. Tweets you missed from people you follow. Pull to refresh to go back to real-time.— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
I *love* real-time. We love the live stream. It's us. And we're going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
Twitter can help make connections in real-time based on dynamic interests and topics, rather than a static social/friend graph. We get it.— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
He was reacting to some pretty over-the-top tweets. A hash tag, #RIPtwitter, was created to talk about the rumor:
One of the great rewards of being an adult is deciding ON YOUR OWN who (and what) you should be interested in. #RIPTwitter— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) February 6, 2016
This proves a few things.
First, people on Twitter like nothing more than complaining about Twitter on Twitter.
Second, people hate change.
For journalists and hardcore Twitter users -- who are few -- the reverse-chronological timeline is essential, as it's the only way to navigate the stream of real-time information provided by the people and publications they follow. Journalists particularly like it because it lets them see breaking news super fast and also gives them a record of who was "first" on a story, which is a point of pride that the rest of the world could not possibly care less about.
The fact is, Twitter needs to increase engagement. It hasn't been adding significant numbers of new users for over a year now and has stalled out a little over 300 million users.
Showing people the information they're most likely to be interested in, rather than every meaningless tweetstorm and inside-y argument in precise reverse order, might actually make the service more interesting and approachable for the billions who don't use Twitter at all.