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Twitter is considering topic-based timelines, says CEO

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Life on Twitter used to be so simple: You picked who you wanted to follow, and their 140-character tweets appeared in your timeline. Now there’s music and analytics and adverts and buy buttons and popular tweets from people you’ve never heard of. The next new feature could be timelines based around a particular topic, according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

The hint comes courtesy of an email reply he sent to RocketMill director Yousaf Sekander after Sekander suggested the ability to “tune into specific topics within a user’s stream.” So, if you followed someone who regularly tweeted about sport and politics, you could filter out the politics updates to focus on the sports posts. It’s an issue with almost every social network — you might follow someone based on their technology expertise, but do you want to see pictures of their kids as well?

Somewhat surprisingly, Costolo replied. “What you are talking about is something we have discussed internally for some time and is related to the notion of topic-based timelines, as you would expect,” he said. “There’s a lot to it, but yes, this is an opportunity that we understand and think about!” So there you have it — Twitter is thinking about adding more filtering options to your timeline, even if it never appears as an official feature.

Now that Twitter is a public company with a stock price to think about, the need to keep adding users — and to make money from them — becomes a more pressing one. In October the company announced it had added 13 million new users over the previous three months, though this figure was less than the previous quarter. While the social network has yet to make a profit, revenues were up to $361 million for the quarter, more than double the earnings for the same period in 2013.

Some seasoned Twitter users would no doubt prefer that the platform stayed as simple and straightforward as possible, but its CEO knows that he needs to keep attracting new users and making Twitter more versatile — and topic-based timelines could be a part of that in the future.

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