So Twitter is great. I love that it is simple. I love that I only see what I want to see. And I see it in the order that it is posted. With the exception of a few sponsored tweets for advertising purposes, it still feels raw.
But Twitter is also in trouble. This quarter, it missed its mark on expected growth of regular users by about 3 million and is growing less than in previous years. The company is saying right now, in their “prove-it” period, numbers are just fluctuating but will bounce back in the next month or so.
In the midst of these pressures, within the next month as well, Twitter is introducing an “instant timeline.” Apparently, users find Twitter overwhelming and hard to sort through at first. So Twitter is using an algorithm that bases the information in your timeline (at least at first, for new users) off the accounts your friends follow.
It would work like this: As soon as you sign up, it would search your phone’s contact list for those with Twitter accounts and follow those people. Then, based on their interests, it would instantly find the accounts you would be most likely to follow based on what your friends like.
I have problems with this.
As Twitter tries to prove itself to be a major social media player that will stick around, it’s leaning more towards algorithms that we constantly find on Facebook. Algorithms that are designed to “make life easier” but often keep us within a fairly closed circle of knowledge. Plus, I’m often confused as to the chronology of Facebook posts or the significance of the order of posts.
Also, my friends and I don’t follow similar accounts. The people in my contact list on my phone are usually people that I follow on Twitter. But my immediate friends and acquaintances (the ones I have phone numbers of) have, individually, very different Twitter timelines.
That’s because Twitter is so personalized. Although I have some common interests with friends, the fact that our timelines vary greatly is evidence of what I love about Twitter.
This algorithm is supposed to go away the more a user becomes familiar with Twitter, kind of as an introduction to the space.
But I worry Twitter will lose its magic. I worry that, in its attempts to make the app “easier,” Twitter will become less of what it is now: an unaltered conversation that happens in real time and begs you to join.