Everyone can stop freaking out about an entirely algorithm-based Twitter timeline, at least for now.
Today, Twitter introduced a new opt-in timeline feature that will show you some tweets you missed since the last time you logged in to the service. It's ostensibly supposed to show you the "best tweets," and it's a bit like the "While You Were Away" feature that the company launched over a year ago.
The update follows last week's #RIPTwitter trending topic explosion, during which the Internet collectively mourned reverse-chronological timelines following a report that Twitter would be launching them. Fearing Twitter would become more like Facebook and make decisions on what content to display based on an algorithm and not how they appear in our feed at the time someone tweets it, people aired grievances and GIFs lamenting the loss of the social network.
To turn on the feature, go to your timeline settings and turn on "Show me the best Tweets first." You'll start seeing old tweets at the top of your feed soon. The new timeline will display the "best tweets," and then your reverse-chronological timeline beneath it. Pulling to refresh will make tweets appear in real-time again.
It's rolling out to people on Wednesday, so you might not have it yet. The number tweets the company decides to show you at the top of your timeline will vary based on how active your timeline is, but it averages out to about a dozen per session.
In a blog post announcing the changes, Twitter said: "We'll be listening to your feedback and making it even better over time. Then we'll be turning on the feature for you in coming weeks—look out for a notification in your timeline."
"Best tweets" aren't replacing While You Were Away. They will blend into your reverse-chronological timeline instead of popping up in a call-out when you open the app. The only way to know they're not new is to check the timestamp. Twitter didn't share any screenshots of the new feature in action, but it will look pretty much like Twitter does now.
According to the company, tests show that users who have "best tweets" turned on tend to retweet and tweet more.
One of the main concerns about an algorithm-based feed, apart from making Twitter even more like Facebook, is that Twitter would be mucking with the timeline for all users, controlling who gets to see what and when. Making the feature opt-in should allay some frustrations. It's a relatively minor change—12 tweets isn't much in the way of timeline manipulation—and it's also one that you can choose to make or not.
Twitter announced the timeline change the same day it's set to hold its fourth quarter earnings call, during which investors will see whether or not the company is beginning to turn itself around. In recent months, frustrations have mounted from both investors and users about the success of Twitter as a platform. On Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey will have to answer some questions about the company's future.
"Best tweets" comes on the heels of Twitter increasing advertising by dropping auto-play ads right at the top of your feed and announcing a new group meant to help combat harassment, a huge problem on the social network, and a reason many people leave it.
Illustration via Max Fleishman