Users await possible Twitter feed change

Twitter users are waiting to see what changes, if any, will hit their feed this week.

BuzzFeed reported Friday that a "brand new Twitter" is on the way, with the social network getting ready to launch an algorithm that will reorder the way users see tweets on their feeds. Users would see tweets based on what the company's algorithm thinks they want to see, instead of in the usual reverse chronological order.

BuzzFeed noted that it wasn't clear if this will be an option for users or if the algorithm will be forced on everyone.

Twitter declined to comment on Monday, but CEO Jack Dorsey took to Twitter on Saturday to say the company is listening to users and "never planned to reorder timelines" this week.

"I *love* real-time," he tweeted. "We love the live stream. It's us. And we're going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!"

While Dorsey said he's not looking to change Twitter's timelines this week, that doesn't rule out the timeline changing at another time.

If Twitter is toying around with using an algorithm to adjust its feed, company executives may be taking a page from social media rival Facebook, which uses an algorithm for users' news feeds. Users however haven't always been happy with the algorithm, which chooses which posts users see.

Facebook executives have defended using the algorithm, noting that it cuts through the "noise" of a flood of posts from friends and relatives to serve up the ones users are most like to care about.

Twitter, according to some industry analysts, is in need of a refresh, especially since investors are eager to see the company increase its bottom line, as well as user growth.

Last month, there was speculation that Twitter might dramatically increase the maximum number of characters people can tweet, from 140 to as much as 10,000.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said it's clear that changes are coming at Twitter.

"Twitter is a great service, but it is basically a first-generation service in a marketplace which rewards next-generation versions," Kagan said. "We are expecting to see new ideas from Twitter. Perhaps this is one of them. I think they would be better off throwing lots of ideas against the wall and then building on whatever sticks."

However, whatever Twitter does, it's just a first move, with more to follow, according to Kagan.

Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, said the algorithm could simply be offered to users as an option, but there might be other ways for the company and users to benefit from an algorithm making selections on Twitter feeds.

"Twitter has to consider ways to change its user interface and content offering to attract and retain more users, and having options, such as an algorithmic approach to the ordering of tweets, will help them adjust that content to serve the widest possible audience," Blau said. "Indeed, Twitter needs to change. While the core value of Twitter today is strong, and their users are engaged, the service won't be able to grow and attract new users until their approach to content delivery, user experience, and even the core tweet experiences are evolved to better meet the needs of social networking users globally."

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said using an algorithm, while initially upsetting users, could reduce "noise" on the site.

"It could increase value if it is done right, but often efforts like this have a long learning curve and getting this wrong could drive people away from the service," he said. "It should make the service more effective and valuable if it is done right, but it could upset the users unnecessarily."


Sharon Gaudin

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