Twitter was in the center of a story this weekend after some media reports claimed that the microblogging network, that prides itself on its real-time nature, is gearing up for a fundamental shift in the way its timeline is structured, eschewing the 'most-recent' top structure for a more Facebook-esque design which shows tweets depending on their relevance to the user.
According to the report, the timeline would now consist of two parts---at the top would be the "While You Were Away" section, where the new algorithm would pick and choose tweets based on their relevance, while the lower section would continue to be chronologically arranged.
This in itself is not new and Twitter has been testing this with a limited number of users since late last year. But late on Friday, after reports emerged that the change would now be applied more extensively, and starting as soon as next week, Twitter users outraged. the hashtag #RIPTwitter was trending through the weekend with many users questioning the need for Twitter to ape Facebook.
Jeff Seibert, Senior Director of Product at Twitter, took to Twitter to quell the ‘rumors’ though his attempts only further fuelled the outrage.
Finally, on Monday, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, stepped in to squash the rumors, which he did, in a way.
Though he has denied that there will be no changes to the timeline, some users have pointed out that he ended the statement with “next week”. Does this mean that Twitter is leaving the door open for changes later in the future?
For brands who use Twitter, how much does a change in how the timeline is structure make a difference?
“Twitter was always a useful tool because it provided a level playing field. All my calculations are based on this order (chronological order). All third party measuring tools also work according to the current timeline. If Twitter makes this change then all metrics will need to be changed. The other point is that as we saw with Facebook, this will lead to low visibility. If I have to fight to get eyeballs for my messages even on Twitter then it might not be that lucrative for me,” opined Gautam Mehra, VP and Head (Social Media) at iProspect India.
He further stated that Twitter has always been fearful of making changes that would irk its user base so it would be very difficult for them to make such a massive change to the timeline now. “Twitter has a very vocal user base who do not like change. We saw this even earlier when they tinkered with the order of search results,” he added.
Meanwhile, Zafar Rais, Zafar Rais, CEO of MindShift Interactive was more stoic,“As marketers and consumers, we tend to love an outrage on social media and voice our disappointment towards things but we eventually adjust or create new paradigms. We've worked our way around Facebook's multiple shifts over the past few years and I believe Twitter tweaking their product would help challenge user communication further and marketing tactics too,” he said.
Giving examples of the recent rumors that Twitter was considering expanding the 140 character limit, he put the constant tinkering to the pressure being faced to rework the platform’s strategy for increasing engagement and increasing excitement. “Twitter claims the change in algorithm is to do with making the platform more real-time and lively. I don't think, however, that a trend-based timeline is the ideal route for Twitter, or for Facebook, but I guess they have to figure ways and means to monetize more, and eventually users of the platform will learn to adapt and move ahead,” he further opined.