Twitter has been making some changes to draw new users. Several iOS users are now reporting seeing a feature that recaps important tweets you may have missed, called “While You Were Away”.
OMG, it appears Twitter is testing a Facebook-like algorithm for the Home stream called "While you were away…" pic.twitter.com/CpQQMLp0VO
— Eli (@EliLanger) December 31, 2014
Twitter had announced the feature back in November, but it’s only now rolling out to iPhone users with the Twitter app. Right now, it’s a simple recap of tweets that are relevant to you, although Twitter has not elaborated how its algorithm determines which tweets it will serve up. Its only explanation so far is:
We can use information like who you follow and what you engage with to surface highlights of what you missed and show those to you as soon as you log back in or come back to the app.
Unlike Facebook’s timeline, Twitter won’t be doing away with a chronological list of all your tweets… yet. And although that was initially criticised, we’ve now come around to believe the Facebook timeline is the best thing for everyone.
Like with any new feature, the jury is out on Twitter’s While You Were Away. The new profile pages in 2014 were initially met with resistance, but as it turned out, they are actually good for you. Plus, the screenshots so far show an “X” next to While You Were Away, suggesting you can close the recap and get back to your timeline.
Still, several users are unhappy with the changes, while others are welcoming them:
Why does twitter show me tweets from last night "while you were away" .. Wack
— Tyler Dvorak (@tylerdv0rak) December 24, 2014
Love the 'While You Were Away' feature at Twitter. Achieves its purpose without affecting real time news feed!
— Samir Selman (@selman) December 30, 2014
Twitter’s While You Were Away feature is the complete opposite of why I like Twitter. I come here for serendipity and to *escape* my habits.
— TED (@EpicureanDeal) January 1, 2015
So Why Is Twitter Doing This?
The new move is actually in line with what Twitter ex-CEO Evan Williams had said in an interview with GigaOm four years ago: “What we need to get much better at is scaling that system so you don’t have to pay attention to everything, but you don’t miss the stuff you care about.”
As GigaOm mentions in its post on the new feature, “While You Were Away” is an attempt to make Twitter’s avalanche of information easier for new users. However, at the same time, it risks alienating its core audience—the power users who like complete control of their timeline.
Twitter has been doing more along these lines, like experimenting with related tweets and Magic Recs to recommend users to follow.
Currently, there are 500 million people who visit Twitter every month but don’t sign into the app, according to The Verge. The new feature is aimed at tapping this market.
And of course, it will help in generating advertising revenue. If a social marketer’s tweet is going to appear for a longer time than the default quick-refreshing feed, that will translate to more cash in Twitter’s pocket.
Much of Twitter’s new tool is unnecessary for power users, or for people who know how to efficiently use Twitter or Tweetdeck. Still, for new users, it’s making it less difficult to discover relevant content.
Discovering Tweets That Matter To You
This is not the first instance of people being overwhelmed by Twitter’s always-updating stream of consciousness. And there are already a few services that will recap the important tweets from your timeline.
Nuzzel will go through all the links shared by people on your timeline, and rank them by relevance for you. It won’t show you non-linked tweets, but still, you still get any that contain a link.
Similarly, News.Me trawls your timeline for the five most important tweets in any day, and sends them as an email digest. It’s actually perfect for those people who don’t log into Twitter every day.
Is Twitter Becoming Facebook?
For many, this move seems to signal Twitter inching closer to becoming more like Facebook. Do you think Twitter is on the path to be Facebook? Would you still use Twitter in that case?