Twitter a couple years ago randomly decided to mess up how it shows tweets from people you follow in the timeline.
It took the 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.
For instance, you would see a tweet about some viral moment in a sporting event that occurred 23 hours earlier, rather than a true stream of real-time tweets. And even if you did pull-to-refresh, after scrolling down a bit, you'd again see old tweets inserted into your feed. Thankfully, even though it took awhile, Twitter is beginning to backpedal on this controversial decision. Here's what you need to know.
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Why did Twitter drop reverse chronological timelines?
To be honest, the decision wasn't shocking. Facebook and Instagram had already shifted from the previously orderly way of doing things to serve up posts you most likely want to see most. Think about it: If you have a 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, as it is finally letting users get back their unfettered chronological timelines - without any algorithms messing them up.
How to see tweets in reverse chronological order
Twitter has updated its “Show the best Tweets first” setting, so you can switch it off to get back to the pre-2016 era of the Twitter timeline.
- Open up your Twitter app.
- Go to Settings and Privacy.
- Go to Content Preferences.
- Turn off the toggle switch at the top.
- Open up Twitter.com in your browser.
- Go to Settings and Privacy.
- Go to Account.
- Scroll down to "Show the best tweets first".
- Un-check that setting.
Why is Twitter returning to reverse chronological timelines?
Twitter posted a few tweets via Twitter Support to announce it is working on new ways to give you more control over your timeline. It said 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 working on providing us with an easy way to switch between a timeline of tweets that are most relevant to a timeline of the latest tweets.
1/ We’re working on new ways to give you more control over your timeline. But first, some context: Twitter helps you see what’s happening by showing the best Tweets for you based on your interactions.https://t.co/H5nuhQy3r2— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) September 17, 2018
It said it'll start testing this new way in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it updated the “Show the best Tweets first” setting. Now, when this setting is switched off, you’ll only see tweets from people you follow in reverse chronological order. Previously, when the setting was switched off, you’d also see “In case you missed it”-type tweets as well as recommended tweets from people you don’t follow.
The end-goal is to eventually replace this setting with an "easier-to-access switch". Twitter did not say when or where the new switch would be available. Now, although this is Twitter's official statement on the matter, it's important to remember Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently appeared in front of two Congressional committees to answer questions, among other things, about a “shadow-banning” conspiracy.
Some claim Twitter's algorithm will "downrank" conservative accounts Dorsey rebuked those accusations and said he intended to increase transparency across the company. By going back to chronological feeds, Twitter users are responsible for curating what they see.