Twitter is taking the real-time aspect out of its timeline

Steven Loeb · December 8, 2015 · Short URL:

The company is experimenting with showing Tweets in order of relevance, rather than time

If there is one thing you can say about Jack Dorsey pretty brief tenure as CEO of Twitter (he's only been inthe job less than six months) so far it has been a willingness to shake up what had become, frankly, astagnant company.

Even more importantly, though, he has shown that he will change things about Twitter that have existed since its conception, which he believes have been holding the company back in terms of gaining new users.

That includes its reverse chronological timeline, which is something that Dorsey had previously mentioned in the last two quarterly earnings calls, and now he is making good on that, as Twitter is currently testing out a change in the way users see their timeline, by  putting Tweets into order by relevance, it was confirmed to VatorNews on Tuesday. 

“This is an experiment,” a company spokeswoman told me. “We’re continuing to explore ways to surfacethe best content for people using Twitter.”

 As I mentioned above, Dorsey has been talking about doing this for a while now. 

"You will see us continue to question our reverse chronological timeline and all of the work it takes to build one by finding and following accounts through experiences like why you are away and Project Lightning which launches this fall," Dorsey said in the second quarter earnings call.

"We continue to show a questioning of our fundamentals in order to make the product easier and more accessible to more people.” 

Project Lightening eventually became Moments, a feature that is designed to curate content by aggregating Tweets and photos from live events and breaking-news situations.

In the third quarter call, Dorsey said that the feature " represents a real, fundamental shift in our thinking," one that makes it easier for new users to come onto Twitter without feeling intimidated or left out. 

Previously users had to "do a bunch of work to find the right accounts to follow," he said, but Moments allows them to "open it up and you can actually see everything that's happened in the world that's most meaningful," and which is organized by topic so that they can see "really unique insights and commentary the particular event that you're interested in."

"So it questions the reverse chronological timeline, provides a chronological narrative, a complete story that is human curated, that gives you much deeper insights and, at the same time, you don't have to do any of the work to find and follow accounts."

So far only a small percentage of users are seeing these new timelines.

The timeline is not the only fundemental feature that Dosrey is said to be willing to change. Reports have also come saying the company is looking into breaking the traditional 140-character limit, which would allow Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service.

What all of this, Moments, new timelines, longer content, comes down to is getting new users to feel comfortable on Twitter, as the company has had a major problem with growing its user base. The company has been slammed repeatedly over the last couple of years, as quarter after quarter showed a slowing number of new users.

The company tried numerous initiatives to help, including overhauling the sign in process, and finding ways to monetize non-users by running ads on third-party Tweets. None of it worked that well, and its partially what cost Dick Costolo his job as CEO.

These are some bold ideas on Dorsey's part, and that willingness to throw out sacred cows may be just the kind of leadership that Twitter needs. 

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.