Twitter has officially changed its definition of the’ “timeline” of tweets that users see to include content from accounts that users don’t follow and which haven’t been “retweeted” by those they do follow.
But the move is proving increasingly unpopular with experienced users, who complain that it is pushing inappropriate or unwanted content into their timelines.
In an update to its support page about “what’s a Twitter timeline?”, the company has added a paragraph saying that “when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.”
Compared with an archived version of the same page, the paragraph shows that Twitter is dramatically expanding the number and range of tweets that people may see.
The aim seems to be to increase the chance that more users may see content that they might find interesting. Twitter has been struggling to increase user engagement and signups as it faces pressure to justify its stock market valuation and encourage growth in user numbers and engagement. A report last year found that 36% of people who had joined Twitter did not use it – compared with 7% of Facebook signups.
Some users are finding the changes annoying - and in some cases distressing. Matt Sayward of Manchester pointed out that Twitter had pushed a tweet to him from Peter Timms - his stepfather, who died last June.
However, third-party apps such as Tweetbot or Echofon are not so far affected by the changes, which have only been implemented in Twitter’s own apps and on its web interface. Future changes to Twitter’s API, the connection to its database which feeds tweets to those apps, could however mean that they also show tweets that those being followed haven’t actively tweeted.
“Favouriting” other users’ tweets has been used by many users since it was introduced as a method of “saving” tweets for later reference without actively sharing them to others. The latter function is normally fulfilled by a “retweet”, in which a user chooses to share another user’s tweet with their followers.
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