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(Pocket-lint) - Twitter many years ago randomly decided to mess up how it shows tweets from people you follow in the timeline.

It took the old, reverse-chronological feed and applied an algorithm meant to surface tweets it thinks you'd care about most. The goal was to drive user engagement. But it meant you would see things like "tweets you may have missed" at the top of your timeline. At any point, you could pull-to-refresh to get an up-to-the-second experience, but many people hated seeing old tweets every time they opened Twitter on their phone or desktop.

For instance, you've probably seen a day-old tweet about some viral moment in a sporting event, rather than a true stream of real-time tweets. And, even if you did pull-to-refresh, after scrolling down a bit, you probably saw more old tweets inserted into your feed. Thankfully, even though it took a while, Twitter has backpedaled on this annoying experience.

Here's what you need to know.

Pocket-lintchange this twitter setting to see tweets in reverse chronological order photo 4

Why did Twitter drop chronological timelines?

Well, years ago, Facebook and Instagram had begun shifting from the previously orderly way of doing things, to serving up relevant posts you most likely want to see most. Think about it: If you have 1,000 friends on Facebook, you don't want to see every single thing each and every one of them post. Facebook thinks you don't, anyway, so it uses algorithms to show posts that likely matter most. But what's good for Facebook isn't necessarily what's best for Twitter. And it seems like Twitter is starting to come to that realisation.

In other words, Twitter is finally letting users get back their unfettered chronological timelines.

How to see tweets in order as they happen

Any Twitter user - either from an iPhone, Android, or PC - can get back to the pre-2016 era of the Twitter timeline.

Twitter mobile app

  1. Open up your Twitter mobile app.
  2. Tap the stars icon in the top corner.
  3. Select See latest tweets instead.

Note: To reverse this, hit the stars icon again, and select Go back home.

Twitter.com

  1. Open up Twitter.com in your browser.
  2. Look for the stars icon in the corner of the "What's happening?" text box.
    • Tap it once you've located it.
  3. Select See latest tweets instead. 

What does the 'show the latest tweets' option do?

Twitter recently updated its “show the latest first” setting. Now, when this is switched on, you’ll only see tweets from people you follow as they happen. Previously, you’d only see interesting and recommended tweets from people you follow. Sometimes, these tweets could be hours or days old, but Twitter still felt like they were relevant to you. 

Why did Twitter switch course?

Twitter (via Twitter Support) announced in 2018 that it developed new ways to give you more control over your timeline. It learned that showing the best tweets first is "more relevant and useful" - but it doesn’t "always get this balance right". So, it's providing users with an easy way to switch between a timeline of the latest tweets, rather than the most relevant ones.

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Writing by Maggie Tillman.