Twitter Inc plans to introduce an algorithmic version of its timeline as soon as next week, reports Buzzfeed. Under the new feature, Twitter timelines will be based on a specific algorithm that perceives what the users want to see rather than the current reverse chronological order feed. The firm, which earlier replaced the ‘favorite’ star icon with a ‘like’ heart symbol and also intends to remove the 140-character limit on tweets, has been tinkering with the new algorithm feature for quite some time.
New Twitter timeline similar to Facebook?
The redesigned version, touted to be similar to the one offered by Facebook Inc , is reportedly expected to make Twitter more accessible and friendly to new users, who may be overwhelmed by the reverse chronological order on the platform. It is also anticipated to help the social media firm solve its signal-to-noise problems and elevate popular content.
Twitter has not put an official statement on the news yet. Back in 2014, it had offered ‘Game Timelines’ for NFL, under which relevant tweets were curated to highlight the best content for each game, instead of showing every tweet with the game hashtag.
The proposed move comes after Twitter Inc executives, including the company’s former product chief Kevin Weil, hinted at plans to tweak the timeline format. CEO Jack Dorsey had stated in the firm’s Q2 earnings call in 2015 that they would ‘continue to question our reverse chronological timeline’ in order to make the social media platform more approachable to new users.
‘Great product teams are always challenging their own beliefs… changing away from purely reverse chronological timeline to a world where we try and show you the most interesting and most relevant, most important thing that’s happening in your world the moment you open Twitter- that’s an example of questioning your core beliefs,’ said Dorsey.
Twitter users furious
How are Twitter users reacting to this new development? Well, they are livid, to say the least. Many have vented about leaving the social media site for good, stating they prefer using Twitter to view the latest news, not the most popular ones. Several have criticized the decision as being a Facebook-copycat while others have predicted the impending doom of the platform.
Sample some comments posted online:
‘Twitter doesn’t understand why people use it at all. Algorithm feeds & removing 140 character limit… RIP Twitter,’ says @VocalTurf.
‘Not to catastrophize, but the algorithmic timeline will kill Twitter as we know it. It’s been a lot of fun, folks,’ opines @JoshHelfferich.
Other such as Beau Dodson, who works as a Meterologist at the Illinois Weather Observatory, states ‘This would be a HUGE problem for meteorologists. We have to have our Tweets in a certain order. Hopefully they will consider this.’
There may be some respite, though. NBC News Director of Branded Content Josh Sternberg, citing sources, has said that the algorithms will be strictly opt-in and not default for all users. If it is indeed true, that can bring some cheer to the hardcore Twitter base which seeks short, precise news updates instead of copious info selectively curated by some algorithm.
Desperate Dorsey’s attempts to salvage Twitter
Twitter Inc co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has surely been having some sleepless nights. The firm, expected to post stagnant numbers in its Q4 earnings call set to be released on February, has seen sluggish user growth rate and a slump in stock prices. Since the start of 2016, Twitter stock has lost nearly 27% in value.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Scott Devitt is doubtful that Twitter’s large user base would continue to support the stock if business slows. According to Devitt, the firm is likely to witness a decline in its monthly active users owing to a ‘lack of innovation and a limited sense of urgency.’
‘Twitter’s monthly active user growth continues to slow and is at risk of turning negative in 2016. f Twitter is in the early stages of following a similar path to ex-growth as AOL and Yahoo experienced before it — as seems to be the case — then there is likely more downside for Twitter common stock,’ says Devitt.
He further notes that ‘Groupon and Zynga were notable Internet companies that quickly rose to prominence followed by a rapid decline in their share prices. Although these companies are not at Twitter’s scale, both still have 50 million users and once had many more.’
There have also been reports that Twitter Inc is a potential takeover target for private equity group Silver Lake and famous Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen.
Jack Dorsey has rolled out several changes of late in the popular social media platform, rolling out GIF buttons and allowing direct messaging in groups, perhaps to attract more users. But in attempting to do so, he may end up alienating a core base of Twitter Inc , which views the tweeting platform as its latest source of breaking news and other interesting updates from different accounts, and not just another portal to see what supposedly ‘popular’ mainstream news is being discussed.