(By Riddhi Mukerjee & Vikas SN)
Your Twitter timeline will soon feature tweets from people and brands that you don’t follow.
Twitter has officially confirmed that it recently ran experiments that showed different types of content in user’s timeline including recommended tweets, accounts and topics and noted that it will continue to show suggested tweets to users, indicating that the feature is no longer an experiment, rather a standard feature on the site.
This follows reports from August this year that had suggested that Twitter was experimenting with select users by showing tweets from people they didn’t follow.
The company has also updated its help center information accordingly. As per Twitter’s FAQs, these tweets are selected based on signals such as activity from accounts that the user follows (such as favouriting tweets or following accounts), the popularity of the tweets, and how people in the user’s network have interacted with these tweets.
Why this is a terrible move? (Vikas adds)
Twitter mentions that these experiments indicated most people enjoyed seeing tweets from accounts they may not follow, although many users do seems to think otherwise.
Dear @Twitter. I follow who I want to follow. I don't want you injecting tweets into my timeline that I don't ask for. Thank you.
— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) October 17, 2014
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) October 17, 2014
While this move could help new users engage more on Twitter, which has been a growing concern for the company, we feel this is a terrible move since Twitter is essentially changing the user’s timelines algorithmically by shoving down content which the company thinks is “interesting and relevant” rather than what users have chosen to follow.
This approach reminds me of Facebook, wherein users are not entirely in control of what they see on their news feeds, rather an algorithm decides which story should be shown to the user and which shouldn’t. (Read: Your Facebook Newsfeed Is Always Being Manipulated).
As Re/Code points out, this addition could also possibly change how users treat the favorite feature on Twitter. Currently, Twitter users fave tweets as bookmarks, or an implicit thanks. However, with this addition, these favs will soon start acting as endorsements and will start appearing for others who follow you.
If they stick with this I will have to dump the "bookmarking fav" and the "don't want to say anything out loud fav" and "sarcastic fav".
— Peter Kafka (@pkafka) August 17, 2014
Twitter Audio card
Besides this, Twitter has also introduced the Twitter Audio Card, that will allow users to listen to music, podcasts, etc directly on their timelines. The service is available for both Android and iOS devices. Twitter mentions that it’s even possible to dock the cards and continue listening to the audio, while users browse their timelines. Twitter currently has Soundcloud and iTunes onboard as streaming partners for this service.
Other Twitter experiments
– Last month, Twitter started testing a ‘Buy’ button feature to allow users to discover products and offers and directly make purchases from within the Twitter app. It essentially works like a mobile wallet. Twitter had first started experimenting with ‘Buy Now’ cards in July this year. In May, Twitter had partnered with Amazon to introduce the #AmazonCart service. It allowed Twitter users to add any product on Amazon’s Twitter feed to their Shopping Cart, and buy it later at a convenient time. The service was launched in India in July.
– Twitter started testing its Promoted Video ads in August this year. They had initially begun testing this feature back in March in partnership with the NBA. This feature built upon the Twitter Amplify program, which was released in India with cricket content from Star Sports.
– Earlier this year, Times Internet’s restaurant listing service TimesCity started allowing users to book tables via Twitter. Users had to tweet @TimesCity with the restaurant, location, date/time and number of people along with the hashtag #TweetaTable. Then users had to send their mobile number. Once the booking was confirmed the users were supposed to receive a message with all details. However, we didn’t find any public tweets related to this, so TimesCity might have been using DMs.