Twitter Users Worry: Are Facebook Algorithms Coming?


Ever since Twitter went public in November of last year, the changes have been fast and furious. A few months ago they changed their font, last month the furor was about other people’s Favorites showing up on personal timelines, this month, they changed the font back (from Gotham to Arial on the PC). The newest worry plaguing Twitter users is the fear that “Facebook algorithms are coming.”

Some of this worry is grounded in reality and some of it is speculation – it really depends on who is answering the question. Forbes and Gigaom both reported that “a filtered feed is coming.” Both publications made dire predictions, based on comments made by Anthony Noto, Twitter’s CFO, at the Citi Global Technology Conference in New York. In detailing upcoming features, Noto shook the heart of Twitter users who depend on the unfiltered stream with a statement that “Twitter’s traditional user stream could become a thing of the past.” Journalists and data fiends everywhere are worried that “Twitter will no longer be Twitter.”

Twitter’s powers-that-be have stated twice now that their current “reverse-chronological order might not deliver the most relevant experience for the user.” It should be noted that the order tweets are listed in has not changed in eight years. Both the CFO and the company’s CEO, Dick Costolo, have said they “would not rule it out” when asked about implementing a filtering algorithm a-la-Facebook.

Journalists and tech freelancers like Christophe Sevrey immediately jumped online after Noto’s comments with tweets like: “One of the values of Twitter is ‘raw content.’ If they took that away, I would leave.” A New York user summed it up by saying, “An unfiltered feed, curated by me, is why I’m here. When I want Facebook, I go to Facebook.”

Costolo also took to social media in response to the Gigaom article, denying that Noto had threatened users with a “filtered feed.” Costolo went on to call that claim “an absurd synthesis.” Twitter has provided alternate stream views in the past with their “Activity” stream in 2011 and their “Discover” stream in 2012. They have presented a united front since the New York conference, stressing that any changes “will be a choice.” One statement they have not made is one assuring users that the changes they are worrying about, in terms of Facebook-like algorithms, will not take place.

Twitter’s other most recent feature was also released to diminish spam and “clean up the stream.” Recently, the mini-blogging site introduced a mute feature to the Web interface and to the Twitter apps that allows users to hide a person’s tweets without unfollowing them. The muting feature has been embraced by users, who like that they can mute without blocking. The muted friend can still reply to tweets and send direct messages. The muted user’s tweets will also show up in the notifications tab on Twitter.

Currently, most savvy Twitter users curate their own content with the use of Lists, and tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck that allow them to slow down the speed of their tweet stream and customize which people and hashtags they wish to follow. This new worry about “Facebook-like” algorithms is putting a hitch into the strides of these die-hard Twitter users.

See also Guardian Liberty Voice

By Jenny Hansen

Washington Post
Wall Street Journal