Twitter experiments with its features in an attempt to improve user experience while generating the most income. The company's latest experiment, however, takes a step not different from what Facebook would do and angers a lot of its loyal users.
Twitter has begun showing favorited tweets on users' timelines, basically treating them similarly as retweets, and pushing notifications whenever someone follows someone else. The new feature was actually already available a few weeks ago to a limited number of users but seems to have expanded to include everyone. The Next Web first reported the new feature when it caught sight of Re/code's Peter Kafka's tweet:
Twitter filling my feed with stuff I didn't ask for - stuff other people follow and fav. pic.twitter.com/IVOViGF1QW
— Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Aug. 17, 2014
Other prominent users, such as U.S. investor Hunter Walk, and several other users have shared their irk over the confusing and redundant feature.
Ooh now twitter inserting selected "[person you follow] faved" tweets into main timeline pic.twitter.com/zDhrNseNGs — Hunter Walk (@hunterwalk) Aug. 16, 2014
With the new feature in place, users can now see the tweets that the people they follow have favorited, in the same way as they can see friends of friends’ tweets that were retweeted by the people directly in their network. It is also very similar to the way Facebook works; where people are shown every single thing their friends do, from liking someone else’s photo to logging in to a third-party app using Facebook credentials.
This could be potentially beneficial for new or less-than-active Twitter users, who can get a glimpse of which accounts they would like to follow or take part in back-and-forth conversations that are part of the heart and soul of the Twitter experience.
However, while seeing retweets from friends of friends has become a widely accepted and loved Twitter feature, seeing favorites is an entirely different thing altogether. For one thing, favorites aren’t exactly synonymous to Facebook likes because people favorite tweets for a variety of reasons. Some people favorite a tweet to say they agree with it. Others do it to acknowledge a tweet or say thanks for it. Others, like many journalists, do so to bookmark it for later reference. And others, still, favorite a tweet to express their disagreement to it. In this sense, favoriting tweets should be a private, or at least semi-private activity altogether, with only the user favoriting the tweet and the user whose tweet was favorited knowing all about the favorite.
Twitter so far has no statement on the backlash that its latest feature is receiving, but the microblogging platform has issued this blog post a year ago about its experimental features.
“We also experiment with features that may never be released to everyone who uses Twitter. Those experiments are perhaps even more valuable because they help us decide what not to do – which is important as we work to keep Twitter simple while improving user experience,” says Twitter’s Alex Roetter, vice president of engineering. “Ultimately, our goal is to learn and keep making the product better, we aren’t necessarily looking to launch all of the experiments we roll out.”