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Twitter Timeline Gets a Reshuffle, Despite User Protests

Tim Maytom

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Twitter has unveiled a new feature which will placed "a dozen or so" algorithmically-selected tweets at the top of user timelines, going ahead with the introduction of the service despite vocal protests from its users earlier this week over similar plans.

The optional feature for both the mobile and desktop version of Twitter is similar to the "While You Were Away" feature that Twitter added over a year ago, with tweets selected based on individual preferences and past interaction. By pulling down to refresh their feed, users will see all new tweets in the usual reverse chronological order.

The 'best tweets' and "While You Were Away" features will operate in tandem, with "While You Were Away" aimed at users who haven't checked in for several hours, while 'best tweets' designed more for users who check Twitter regularly but follow lots of people, and so are more likely to miss content in the rapid churn.

According to Twitter, testing of the feature has shown that people tend to retweet and tweet more when it is activated, creating more live commentary and conversations, as well as boosting levels of engagement with brands' organic tweets and tweets about live events.

"This update is a clear way to draw out the most relevant content on an individual basis while maintaining Twitter's core strength of being live," said George Manas, chief strategy officer at digital marketing agency Resolution Media. "We're incredibly excited by the opportunity this presents for all the brands we partner with."

The roll out of the new feature comes just hours ahead of Twitter's latest quarterly results being made public, with some considering this the most important earnings call in the company's history. Earlier this week Twitter's share price hit a historic low, and rumours about a takeover or sale continue to circulate.

The weekend also saw Twitter users vocally opposing changes to the service after reports suggested that the social network would be replacing its current timeline with an algorithmically-determined homepage similar to Facebook. Users took to the hashtag #RIPTwitter to denounce the idea of an change, but many industry analysts suggest that such a move could restart Twitter's slagging user growth.

Since then, Twitter has made several other announcements ahead of its quarterly results, including the introduction of new ad product First View, which places a promoted video post at the top of Twitter's timeline for a 24-hour period, and the creation of the Twitter Trust & Safety Council, which will look to "strike the right balance between fighting abuse and speaking truth to power" and "ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter".

While the optional nature of the update will satisfy some Twitter users, there are still likely to be some who see the feature's introduction as the company meddling with a formula that already works. However, with increasing pressure from both shareholders and users, Jack Dorsey can't please everyone, and for now he seems to have chosen the investors over the masses.