Twitter changed its timeline today, and I’m glad.
Your Twitter timeline was previously populated with almost all of the tweets from accounts you follow, with the most recent updates at the top of the list. Now, you’ll see some tweets from accounts you don’t follow. Twitter selects those tweets based on a “variety of signals,” the details of which are immaterial to my argument. You can read all about the changes on Twitter’s blog post.
I suspect some longtime Twitter users will bemoan the sacrilegious tampering of the sacred timeline. We like a pure social stream. We like to see every drop of tweeted information as it makes its way down that stream. We don’t want Twitter littering the stream with unrequested junk.
So why am I glad for the change? One word: Netflix.
Netflix shares dropped 26.4% late Wednesday. Why? Because, according to The Wall Street Journal, the company failed to meet expected growth of new users. It didn’t lose customers. It actually gained 980,000 streaming customers in the U.S. and 2.04 million foreign customers. But those numbers fell short of the expected growth of 1.33 million and 2.36 million customers here and abroad, respectively.
I use Twitter every day. It’s a great tool. I want it to succeed. Since it’s a publicly traded company, that means that it has to keep its shareholders happy, it has to continue to grow.
In it’s most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter stated that if they were “unable to convince potential new users of the value and usefulness of our products and services,” that could “negatively affect user growth and engagement.”
The change in the timeline is meant to attract new users, as Mathew Ingram reported at Gigaom:
The impetus for Twitter to filter is obvious: the service needs to show growth in both number of users and engagement in order to satisfy investors, and finding relevant content as a new user can be a challenge, which is why the company recently updated its so-called “on-boarding” process.
Through its years of consistent growth, Facebook has constantly changed the algorithm for its News Feed. Users complain, but new subscribers continue to sign up.
I haven’t detected any negative impact to my Twitter timeline, and tweets – all the tweets from the accounts I follow - are still showing up in reverse chronological order.
If Twitter needs to attract new customers, changing the timeline might be one way to make the service more appealing than it was to me when I first looked at it seven years ago. I don’t mind a timeline tweaked so slightly that I haven’t noticed a difference, if it means that Twitter can continue to grow.