Many Twitter users have noticed for a while that tweets from people they don’t follow, as well as favorited posts from people they do, have been turning up in their timelines. The change appeared to be another experiment by the folks at Twitter as it looks at ways to improve content discoverability on the service and create more connections.
While some Twitter tests lead to new features for the service, others are quietly brushed under the carpet and never spoken of again. However, it looks like this one is now an official feature after news outlet Quartz spotted explanatory notes referring to it on a Twitter support page.
The development means Twitter users will no longer have the almost total control that they enjoyed before with their carefully curated timelines.
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The new note on Twitter’s help page says:
When we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.
While many users of the microblogging service may feel their timeline is already relevant and interesting enough – after all, they did essentially build it themselves – Twitter is hoping to expose them to more content and a wider range of users in a bid to integrate them deeper into the platform.
So besides your timeline’s ads and retweets, which you also have little control over, you’ll now have to get used to posts favorited by friends, as well as “popular” posts from users you don’t follow.
It’s conceivable the feature may prove useful for new users of Twitter looking for ideas on who to follow, but it’s hard to imagine this move going down well with long-time users who’d like to retain a high level of control over their timeline.
The big test will be how effective Twitter’s algorithm is in choosing relevant tweets to repost. If it’s off the mark too often, we can expect to see angry users taking to, er, Twitter to express their disgruntlement, which could ultimately lead to the company ditching the feature. So let’s see how it works out….