Twitter loves to experiment with new features and tools. Many of these add-ons never make it out of the beta stage, and are only ever shown to a small subset of users who test the functionality while Twitter measures the response. Sometimes, however, these experiments go on to become core features.
Remember the stink that was caused when Twitter started showing favorites and other tweets in timelines from people that weren’t being followed? Good news! That’s now a permanent feature.
“We recently ran experiments that showed different types of content in your timeline: recommended Tweets, accounts and topics.” writes Twitter today on the official blog. “Testing indicated that most people enjoy seeing Tweets from accounts they may not follow, based on signals such as activity from accounts you do follow, the popularity of the Tweets, and how people in your network interact with them. These experiments now inform the timeline you see today.”
Two things about this are interesting. One, that Twitter says that most people enjoyed seeing external content in their timeline. That’s exactly opposite to the generally reported reaction. Now, sometimes the loudest people are actually a minority but they make an issue feel more important than it is because they’re noisy. I’m not so sure that’s the case here. I think Twitter has decided that, going forward, new users need more help to understand Twitter and make it “sticky”, and showing them what they’re missing might be one way to do that.
The second interesting thing is the phrase “these experiments now inform the timeline you see today”. Meaning, this is all live, now. I’ve yet to see even one recommended tweet in my personal timeline so it will be interesting to see whether it’s something I’ll just quickly adapt to or if it becomes super annoying, fast.
In the meantime, here’s the official word on what you expect, courtesy of the Twitter Help Center‘s “What’s a Twitter timeline?” section.
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.
(Source: Twitter Blog.)