I don’t write nearly as much about tech on this site as I do about movies and TV, but here’s a story that needs to be relayed to as many people as possible just in case there’s a small chance we can do something to change things.
For Twitter and Facebook users, there’s a stark difference between the two services. For me, I use Facebook to keep up with old friends…and that’s about it. I use Twitter for nearly everything else: following breaking news, getting important updates from people I trust and have chosen to follow, and being a part of a larger conversation about things happening in real time. But if the people in charge at Twitter have their way (and it’s looking like they will), soon there won’t be much of a difference between Facebook and Twitter – and that will be a terrible loss for all of us.
You may have noticed that Facebook, well, kind of sucks these days. If one of your friends decides to “like” or comment on something, that will bump straight to the top of your News Feed, even though you couldn’t care less about what it was that person liked or commented on (or, oftentimes, even that “friend” him/herself). It’s become a serious chore just to find the things that you actually want to see on Facebook, and sifting through the garbage of information we don’t want is not something that many of us enjoy doing.
That’s why Twitter has been such a refreshing alternative. It allows you to curate your own stream and everything – regardless of perceived relevance – shows up in chronological order. Now the CFO of Twitter is saying that a Facebook-style feed is coming. By implementing an algorithm that tells us what it thinks we want to see, Twitter will be destroying the best thing about its service. It hasn’t been a perfectly smooth ride with Twitter, because over the years they’ve introduced some changes (a Facebook-like home page for yourself, adding images, putting notifications in your feed when people you don’t follow favorite tweets of people you do, etc.) that have rankled many of its longtime users. But the service as it is right now works, and despite a few minor gripes, it can be the best source of news on the internet if you use it correctly.
Unfortunately, it’s not the longtime users that the execs care about – it’s all of the people who aren’t using Twitter yet that they’re looking to entice. And they think that adding an algorithm and getting rid of purely chronological tweets will make it easier for new users to find content that’s interesting to them. That may be the case, but whatever THAT is, it isn’t Twitter. It’s not the service I know and love, and it’s not the one that keeps me current on whatever is happening in the world.
Imagine what a curated feed will look like. It’s not very hard, actually – just log in to Facebook and take a look around for a minute. There’s a reason your Facebook feed was full of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges when the situation in Ferguson was in full swing, and I imagine that has something to do with Facebook probably wanting you to equate seeing things that you enjoy on Facebook with thinking that your time is best spent on Facebook and not surfing elsewhere. As with any business, it’s all about the bottom line, and while I can see why Facebook and Twitter have and want to implement changes like this, the result is an awful experience for the user.
So what can we do about it? Probably not much. This may be incredibly naive, but I’m not sure what else to do, so allow me to suggest that maybe if enough people tweet at the @Twitter account expressing their displeasure with the idea of implementing a Facebook-style feed, perhaps the suits will reconsider and look at other ways to potentially make money. That could include more ads, sponsored content, or God knows what else, but maybe then we’d at least still be able to see things in chronological order. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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