Filtered Timelines in Twitter? Maybe, Maybe Not.

You know how you’re always sitting there thinking, “ya know what’s just great? This algorithmic Facebook News Feed”? Wait…what? You don’t feel that way?? Really?? Huh.

Well, turns out, Twitter thinks that’s just what its social network is missing. Or maybe they actually don’t? It’s kind of hard to say, but one thing’s clear– a lot of people are confused right now.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published last week, Twitter CFO made some comments that appeared, at least on the surface, to suggest that the company may be moving towards a Facebook-style filtering approach to users’ timelines; one that, in Anthony Noto’s own words, would be rooted in:

“an algorithm that delivers the depth and breadth of the content we have on a specific topic and then eventually as it relates to people”

Immediately, freak-outs began– especially when GigaOm published this recap of the WSJ interview, which was accompanied by the clickbait-y title “Twitter CFO says a Facebook-style filtered feed is coming, whether you like it or not”.

People were outraged. I, myself, was outraged. After seeing Foursquare split itself into two with Swarm, GetGlue ruin its reputation long before becoming tvTag, and Facebook going downhill since, well, since they stopped requiring college email addresses, I’ve had enough of once-solid social networks essentially tanking themselves through the process of “improvement”. If Twitter did really start “newsfeedin'” our timelines, I was personally prepared to go elsewhere.

But, did we all maybe overreact?

There’s a chance. As it turns out, maybe a pretty big one.

After the article was published on GigaOm, Twitter CEO had this response:

Any fears of “waking up one day” and finding your Twitter Timeline completely controlled by an algorithm should also be alleviated, as Noto also told the WSJ:

“We’re going to do all of these methodically. We test and make sure we understand what the implications are”

While that should allay concerns for the moment, there is undoubtedly a movement within Twitter, as proven by the recent Timeline tests, to make it “easier” for users to surface relevant content– one that isn’t likely to come to an end anytime soon, as the social network looks to overtake some of Facebook’s stronghold. In the meantime, I wouldn’t suggest abandoning Twitter just yet; the users will decide the network’s fate, and as long as we stay vocal, there’s not much the loyalists won’t have a say in.

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