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article imageTwitter launches algorithmic timeline — Despite denying it exists

By James Walker     Feb 10, 2016 in Internet
Twitter has begun to roll out a new version of its timeline that displays tweets algorithmically instead of in the traditional reverse-chronological order. The feature will be disabled by default, to the relief of many vexed users.
The change is Twitter's latest effort to get more people engaged with the social network amid stagnant user growth and continuing financial troubles. The timeline now sorts tweets based on relevancy, displaying popular topical ones above older posts.
Reports of the change were widely circulated late last week. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later claimed the rumours were inaccurate, describing Twitter as "live" and "real-time." Just a few days on, the algorithm is now being rolled out across Twitter's homepage and mobile apps.
Contrary to some original reports, the feature is not being forced onto users and does not replace the reverse-chronological timeline. Instead, the algorithm can be optionally enabled, once available to each user, and then begins to operate like an extended "While you were away" update.
"While you were away" presents users with a small selection of recently popular tweets that they missed while offline. The new algorithmic timeline expands on this, filling the entire homepage or app with sorted tweets based on what "you're most likely to care about" (Twitter hasn't revealed the exact factors that decide which tweets to display.)
Called "Show me the best tweets first," the feature adds a "Best tweets" panel to the timeline every time the user loads Twitter's website or opens the app. The sorted tweets are dismissed by refreshing the page, returning the timeline to its traditional reverse-chronological layout.
Best tweets can be manually enabled now by going to "Account settings" from Twitter.com. In the "Content" section, toggle the "Show me the best Tweets first" box under "Timeline." On iOS, the setting can be found under "Timeline personalization" in the "Timeline" tab of the settings page. On Android, it is accessed by tapping "Timeline" in the settings menu.
It is still too early to tell whether "Best tweets" will end up becoming popular with users. Last week, the hashtag "#RIPTwitter" was trending across the social network as people lamented the loss of the reverse-chronological timeline. Twitter may have closely avoided disaster by adding an optional toggle but with "Best tweets" still propagating across the network few users have actually tried it out yet.
The feature does appear to have gone down well with advertisers though. Coming the day after Twitter unveiled "First View", a new way for advertisers to put their video at the top of a user's timeline, "Best tweets" may give marketers more chance of getting their ad into a user's feed during popular live events or celebrations.
However, Mashable reports that the lack of information on the factors being used to sort the tweets is currently a sticking point for some advertisers, adding a degree of unpredictability to what the algorithm decides is "best" for each user.
More about Twitter, Timeline, Algorithm, Tweets, Tweet