Twitter on Tuesday appeared to make a major change to the way users can view tweets from the people they follow.
The company has for a long time allowed users to make a choice between seeing every tweet from the people they follow, in chronological order, or seeing an algorithmically sorted feed highlighting tweets from people they interact with most or otherwise might find interesting. The “top” feed uses complex algorithms to decide what users might like to see when they open the app, and is meant to increase engagement.
Just a bug — On Tuesday, however, users reported that the toggle switch for viewing their timelines in reverse-chronological order (latest tweet first) was removed. That would mean users are forced into using the algorithmic timeline.
On a support page, Twitter seemed to indicate this was an official change rather than a test (emphasis ours):
You can choose between viewing the top Tweets first or the latest Tweets first in your timeline (Twitter for iOS and Android only). Top Tweets are ones you are likely to care about most, and we choose them based on accounts you interact with most, Tweets you engage with, and much more. You can find instructions on how to toggle between the two timeline views below.
But Twitter has since told Input that this is merely a bug that it’s working to fix. “We have no plans to remove the option to see "Latest Tweets" from the Home Timeline,” it said. It’s unclear why the support site indicates the option is only available on mobile, but cached versions of the page display this wording going back to at least March even though the desktop site also has the feature.
The beast of attention — Twitter first introduced the algorithmic timeline back in 2016. The intention was to follow in the footsteps of Facebook and others that keep users’ attention by always showing them things they would find interesting. Twitter struggled to grow for a long time in part because its service didn’t make it easy for new users to find things that might interest them.
Of course, however, longtime users have spent years curating their feeds to hear from exactly the people who interest them, and don’t need Twitter’s influence to increase their already unhealthy level of engagement on the platform. A #RIPTwitter revolt happened before the company instituted an option to choose between the new and traditional sorting method.
Shortly after introducing the algorithmic feed, Twitter said it had proven helpful in drawing in new users and making old ones more active. The company further improved discoverability for new users by suggesting people to follow based on their interests, and it began using the algorithmic feed to promote tweets it thinks a user might like from people they don’t already follow.
Fortunately power-users can relax, Twitter isn’t taking your control away.