Ever heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, apparently Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey hasn’t. And if the response to the new Twitter timeline is as bad as the Hollywood Reporter is suggesting, the site may soon find itself as irrelevant as the once-popular Myspace.
— CNET (@CNET) February 11, 2016
Twitter began rolling out the highly criticized timeline changes on Wednesday. The alteration that has the site’s users so angry is what’s known as the “best tweets” feature. Negative feedback began around the time Buzzfeed News first mentioned Twitter was preparing to make some important changes to the site’s viewing experience.
“The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.
“It is unclear whether Twitter will force users to use the algorithmic feed, or it will merely be an option.”
The most damaging aspect of this and similar early reports? There was generally an overall lack of clarification: Would this timeline change be automatic or would it be optional? In the past, Twitter has made various timeline changes that were automatic. Although Twitter users were granted a brief window of time to view the site and timelines through the “old” method, eventually changes were permanent. By the time that happened, users were given a decent amount of time to get used to the new viewing experience.
Without any indication that the timeline viewing experience could be optional, there was a strong backlash, one that made #RIPTwitter a top trending tweet for days.
— LSE Impact Blog (@LSEImpactBlog) February 11, 2016
However, perhaps Twitter users are behaving too harshly in response to upcoming changes, as noted by the Hollywood Reporter.
“[Twitter] is introducing a new timeline that allows people to catch up on important tweets that they may have missed while not signed into the service.
“For those who opt into the feature, which is a sort of expanded version of the ‘while you were away’ tweets introduced last year, Twitter will now surface what it considers ‘the best tweets’ for each user at the top of their timeline when they open Twitter.
“Other tweets will be stacked under those tweets in the standard reverse chronological order.”
In other words, it sounds like this change that everyone is so upset with is something that Twitter users will have the option of not using. If that’s the case, is there any reason to assume that Twitter is in danger of becoming an irrelevant and abandoned social media site?
Well, yes. Just not necessarily for the reasons you might have thought.
According to PC Magazine Australia, Twitter’s revenue is earned through haphazardly applied social media marketing.
Said writer John C. Dvorak, “It’s all about creating a branded home page. You are told to tweet all the time and retweet a lot and use a lot of hashtags. That is how you market on Twitter? WTF?”
In any case, Twitter’s timeline change will likely go over like a lead balloon, just as the proposed 10,000-character limit did. These ideas are, if you didn’t now, a desperate attempt to inspire confidence is its increasingly skeptical investors.
Here’s what Bloomberg had to say on the matter.
“The company has faced sharp criticism over slowing growth in its audience since its 2013 initial public offering. Even as Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey rolled out efforts to make its product more mainstream, by some measures Twitter’s user base shrank from the third quarter.
“‘This is the critical period for Twitter, and they need to show more than just optimism,’ said Rob Sanderson, an analyst at MKM Partners LLC. ‘It’s very vulnerable right now, and especially if we are heading into a recessionary environment, those ad dollars are going to become more difficult to get — for everybody.'”
So what does this mean for Twitter, its timeline, and faithful Twitter users? Well, if their user count continues to plateau (or is followed by a dip in active membership), we can expect all sorts of wacky and controversial ideas, changes, and adjustments in the coming months. We may even get a subscription-only version of the site!
With competition for the notoriously short attention spans of internet users at an all-time high, Twitter really cannot afford to make unpopular timeline changes. Any adjustments made are going to have to be the kind that keeps its user base happy — instead of driving them away.
[Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images]