Will everyone be forced to use Twitter’s new algorithm? When will the Twitter algorithm launch? Just how much is it going to change things? Twitter users were devastated and angry when they learned that Twitter might be changing timelines to show an algorithm focused on only what Twitter thinks people “want” to see. But those fears may not be warranted. When news about the possible change broke on Friday, it brought back unpleasant memories about how Facebook now selectively shows posts in its timeline and doesn’t let people see what all their friends are posting. Because Twitter’s user base tends to use Twitter for the latest news, not the most popular news, this potential change was making people very angry. But just how serious is the whole issue?
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Is Saying the Timeline Isn’t Changing That Drastically
It’s a little unclear exactly what is happening, but Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is tweeting that they’re listening to their user base and won’t be making a drastic change. He’s saying they never planned to reorder the timelines next week. (But does that mean he didn’t plan to change them at all or that the timeline will still change soon, but not next week?) He added that they love real-time Twitter and that feature is going to be here to stay.
Here are a few more of his tweets:
It seems that changes are coming, but they will make Twitter more “Twitter-y,” according to Dorsey. He said they plan to refine Twitter to make it feel even more “live.” Some users are still concerned, however, and are shaky after the news broke a possible algorithm change. Dorsey wrote on Twitter that they were, indeed, going to refine the live stream, but not in the way users were worried about. He also tweeted that connections would be made in real-time based on dynamic interests and topics, rather than a static friend graph. But for some users, even these tweets were worrisome. One person said that this seemed to defeat the purpose of the follow button.
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2. BuzzFeed Reported Having Information that the Twitter Algorithm Would Do Away With Chronological Timelines
According to BuzzFeed, they had inside information that the Twitter timeline would display tweets based on an algorithm, not based on its current reverse chronological order that users love. That would have meant that the tweets you saw and how you saw them would change drastically. Twitter itself had not yet officially commented on this news or made a statement about the algorithm when the story was released.
In the past, BuzzFeed had been accurate with their Twitter scoops. In addition, an NBC News reporter had said that his own sources at Twitter verified but said the changes would be opt-in only. It’s unclear what happened between the that story was released late Friday and Saturday afternoon when Dorsey addressed Twitter.
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3. Twitter Had Tested the Algorithm Changes With a Small Group in December
The rumor seemed possible because Twitter was actually testing this exact timeline change with a small group of users in December 2015, The Verge reported. The tweet above shows a photo from one of those timeline tests.
And back in September 2014, when discussing this same idea, Twitter’s CFO said that the current reverse chronological order isn’t “the most relevant user experience” because timely tweets can get buried at the bottom of the feed if you’re not constantly looking at your Twitter feed, The Verge reported. Twitter experimented with a version of this idea back in 2014 when it gave “Game Timelines” for each NFL game. These subject-specific timelines didn’t show every tweet with a relevant game hashtag. Instead, Twitter curated the relevant tweets to highlight the best content.
4. NBC Reported That Their Twitter Sources Said the Timeline Would Be Opt-In And Not Default
Although BuzzFeed reported that they weren’t sure if Twitter would make the new algorithm timeline default or not, other media sources reported differently. Josh Sternberg of NBC News said that his Twitter sources told him the algorithms would be strictly opt-in. However, as others pointed out, Facebook started that way, too.
Right now, Twitter’s user base tends to use the timeline to keep up with the latest news and to see things as they happen, immediately. If the new timeline were true, it would instead present tweets in your feed based on what Twitter thinks people want to see the most, BuzzFeed reported. This is how Facebook’s algorithm works for its timeline. Many people are unhappy with Facebook’s timeline because even when users choose “Most Recent” for their feed, the algorithm still won’t likely show them status updates from all their friends. Twitter users currently enjoy not having this problem.
The Verge reported that the new algorithm might also include what is most “relevant.”
5. Twitter’s User Base Was Angry About the News
Twitter’s user base is not happy about this announcement. Already, tweets are flooding the timeline with angry comments and sad photos. Would an algorithm filter out these types of tweets? This isn’t the first major change that Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, has announced since he was named CEO in October. He’s also looking at changing Twitter’s 140 character limit to 10,000.
Here are a few more angry tweets being shared: