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Twitter testing timeline changes that see tweets appear in out-of-order format

Having introduced changes to image ratios and layout on its desktop service, Twitter is now reportedly testing something even bigger — presenting tweets by relevance rather than the usual reverse-chronological order (that is, most recent first). And not everyone is pleased.

A number of users have voiced their displeasure in seeing tweets on their timelines appearing in a seemingly random order. Apparently, this is an ongoing experiment to optimize the appearance of content for users, Twitter revealed in an email statement to Slate.

Related: Twitter enhances photo-sharing by uncropping images and improving layouts

The changes are most apparent when a user logs back in to the service after a few hours. Whereas in the past the most recent tweets would have been viewable at the top of a timeline — no matter the source — they now seem to be ordered in terms of relevance. For those familiar with Twitter, it’s akin to the “While you were away” tweets that tend to display the most relevant content that you may have missed if you were logged off for a period of time.

Users on both the desktop and mobile versions of the social platform have noted the changes. What remains unclear, however, is the algorithm behind the timeline makeover.

We logged in to our feed and found a number of tweets from accounts we had liked and retweeted in the past right at the top of our mobile display, listed without regard to the time they were tweeted. Others have claimed that there is absolutely no order to the way their tweets are appearing, reports Slate. Additionally, the algorithm is said to be adapting to user behavior. Therefore, if you were to keep refreshing the page it might revert back to its original format.

The reasoning behind the move could be very simple. Twitter is constantly seeking ways to make its service more attractive for new users, to the extent that many have accused it of copying Facebook.

The problem, in this case, lies with the implementation. Prolific tweeters, and those obsessed with their follower count, don’t necessarily seek content on their ‘home’ timeline. Features such as lists and the search tab make it easy to organize and scour the service for the information you’re after. Just as common is its use as a social platform wherein the ‘home’ page is integral for those seeking updates from users they follow.

Catering to the differing needs of its users will no doubt be difficult for a versatile platform such as Twitter. Evidently, not everyone will be pleased by the service’s innovations. And it will be interesting to see if this turns out to be just a failed experiment or a long-term change.