Twitter Goes the Facebook Way

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Glen Savio Palmer, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Everyone uses Facebook. Well, at least 22% of the entire world’s population does use it. That’s a whopping 1.6 billion persons! The biggest factor behind Facebook’s omnipresence is the way it has learnt more and more about us over the years and evolved continuously. Its algorithm ensures automatically that the posts related to our best friends were shown to us first. This approach does seem logical to most of us. However, another social media platform which boasts of over 300 million active users, never gave in to this approach. Twitter, the Gen Y’s favourite, had a unique appeal in bringing stories from around the world happening at the precise moment straight to our screens. However, all that is set to change, as Twitter has finally announced a change in its policy, going with a strategy somewhat similar to what Facebook uses.

The algorithm that will re-order your timeline is based on the one that ranks tweets for the “while you were away” feature that Twitter introduced a year ago. The best way to think of the new timeline is as an expanded version of this feature. Spend an entire day away from Twitter, and when you open the app again, you’ll see highlights from the day. If you open it up a few times a day, you’ll see a handful of “while you were away”-style sections breaking up the chronological tweets. And whenever you pull down to refresh your stream, its back to the regular, reverse-chronological timeline.

Some users, however, have not responded well to this change. A few testers of this feature reported that It tears conversations apart, and it’s really confusing when some people have been live-tweeting an event and those things get scattered all across the timeline. It makes it extremely hard to follow events, and destroys one of the core values of Twitter.

The core value being expressed by these testers is that of “Living in the moment”. Personally, though I did like the “Why you were away” feature, I believe that the new timeline will drive users away as it confuses both existing users as well as new users. The good news is that the new feature is optional, and can be easily opted out. Let us hope that this new gamble pays off.

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