The best thing about a Twitter timeline is the simplicity. It’s not your Facebook feed cluttered with baby pictures, “Farmville” invites and your weird aunt who lives in Reno. It’s just a single stream made up of people you chose to follow sharing thoughts and jokes and maybe occasionally over-sharing about a bad date. If you don’t want to see tweets from your cousin Donald, or more importantly, from the restaurant chain McDonald’s, you simply don’t follow them. But now that Twitter has shareholders to satisfy, they’re changing the rules.
Earlier this week, Twitter updated their help document, adding some new language to better explain what Twitter is and how it works. That’s pretty unremarkable — features change all the time and Twitter is always conscientious about updating its documentation. However, this update contained one major change: it redefined the meaning of a Twitter timeline.
“… when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting,” reads the new document.
So far it looks like these are tweets that your friends have favorited. You might have seen some of these creeping into your timeline already as a sort of soft test for what might follow. The problem Twitter is facing is that brands don’t want to pay to advertise with content, like premium video, on Twitter if users can just choose not to see it. One way Twitter can solve that is by making it seem as if your friends are endorsing that content and sharing it with you. The only problem is that they’re not. Twitter already has a “retweet” feature that allows users to voluntarily share tweets from others. Having their favorites and follows turned into involuntary brand endorsements could be a major turn-off for active Twitter users.
Share this article with your Twitter-loving friends, or Twitter might just go ahead and do it for you!