Trying to be everything to everyone — Twitter’s algorithm experiment

Update — It looks like Jack Dorsey has read my post. Twitter won’t be rolling out an algorithmic timeline.

Waking up to the news that Twitter is to soon launch an algorithm that will filter exactly what appears in your timeline is a bit like finding out your favourite childhood BBC presenter has been arrested — you knew it was inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

The platform seems to have been engrossed in an existential battle with itself over the past few months as bosses try to work out how to turn it into a viable business. The very things that make Twitter Twitter, the length of tweets and now the real-time nature of the channel, are viewed as barriers to market success.

Despite assurances that the new algorithmic timeline will be opt-in, existing users are still upset. That will be of little concern to Twitter’s execs though. The reason for this period of change is to make the platform more attractive to new users, but will it? Can you honestly say that Twitter would be any more of an interesting proposition to the uninitiated in the wake of this news? I suspect not.

It feels like Twitter are embarking on changes with little regard for what the next iteration of the platform will look like. Channels add new functionality all the time, and some are more warmly received than others, but few have allowed this development to ride roughshod over their USPs. Platforms succeed because they differentiate themselves from what is already out there, they don’t mimic their bigger brothers. Twitter wants to be everything to everyone, and could quite easily end up being nothing to anybody.