Twitter is making some notable changes to its service — but the effect may not be as big as many had predicted: The company rolled out a new feature Wednesday that prioritizes what the company calls the “best tweets” in an attempt to make Twitter less intimidating for casual users, and ramp up engagement.
Twitter senior engineering manager Mike Jahr described the new feature in a blog post this way: “When you first open Twitter, the tweets you’re most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline – they are recent, and in reverse chronological order.”
The feature is immediately available to anyone on iOS, Android and the Web, but has to be turned on in each user’s settings for now. Twitter will switch all of its users to the new experience in the coming weeks.
There is no set number of tweets that are being presented as part of this selection, as this depends on a number of factors, including the people a user follows and their tweet volume. However, in past tests of the feature, the number is said to have been around a dozen. Once a user scrolls past those tweets, the regular timeline starts to appear again.
Users can also always pull to refresh their screen to see newer tweets from the regular timeline on top of these “best tweets”. And anyone who doesn’t want to see any curated tweets at all can opt out altogether in Twitter’s app settings.
Buzzfeed had reported late last week that Twitter was getting ready to roll out a new timeline that was based on algorithmic curation, rather than a real-time feed of tweets. That report led to an uproar, with users protesting against the perceived danger of Twitter giving up its real-time newsfeed for a Facebook-like experience.
The actual changes introduced Wednesday seem to be much more modest, and include multiple opt-out options. But Jahr also defended the curated approach in his blog post, arguing that it leads to higher engagement. “We’ve already noticed that people who have used this new feature tend to retweet and tweet more, which is good for everyone,” he wrote.