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Twitter widens experiment that turns favorites into retweets

Twitter is well known for testing out new features on users before either rolling them out permanently, tweaking them for further testing, or tossing them into the trash can.

Its latest idea involves automatically retweeting selected favorited posts from followed accounts, a feature that is already reshaping the timeline of many users.

The experiment started out a couple of weeks ago, though in recent days it’s been widened to include more users, according to TheNextWeb.

It’s not clear how often favorited tweets are turning up on timelines, or precisely how Twitter’s retweeting algorithm for such posts works, but considering users engage with the favorite button in a variety of ways (it could be to read later, or something you want to bookmark for later reference, or content you want to keep but feel will be of little interest to others), the feature could result in a large amount of flotsam landing on people’s timelines.

When people retweet a post or link to an article or some such content, it’s because they think it might be of interest to their followers. Favoriting is a different feature entirely. If a user wants to keep it and also thinks it may be of interest to their followers, they’ll most likely favorite it and retweet it. If not, perhaps Twitter needs to find a way to encourage the use of the retweet button rather than grabbing favorited items and pushing them around the social media site.

Related: Twitter explains trending hashtags

Additionally, Twitter’s favorites feature has until now been a more personal part of the experience, with a list of favorited tweets of a single user only viewable via their profile page – and even then you have to be logged in to view them. This new feature changes all that.

Notifications about when someone you follow starts following another user are also turning up on timelines – and their tweets, too, may also occasionally appear. While this may not be to the liking of some Twitter users, others may see it as a useful way of finding new people to follow, even though Twitter’s Discover tab – accessible with a single swipe to the left – provides the same kind of suggestions, plus plenty more.

If these tested features do end up as part of the microblogging site, the social media company might want to consider including an ‘opt-out’ switch in Settings to let users decide if they want their favorite posts retweeted, or if they want to receive such tweets.

If you’ve noticed these new messages popping up on your timeline, let us know how you feel about them in the comments below.