Twitter Adds “While You Were Away” Feature To Highlight Important Tweets
Users who return to Twitter after an absence will see three top tweets under a "While you were away ..." heading.
Twitter took another step away from a purely reverse chronological timeline today, announcing a Recap feature that will show users several top tweets they might have missed while they were not checking Twitter.
Starting today on iOS apps — and coming soon for Android and twitter.com — users who open Twitter after an absence will often see three tweets at the top of their timeline under a “While you were away …” heading. Twitter says the Recap tweets will be from people you follow, determined by level of “engagement and other factors.” Users who scroll down the page, will see their regular timeline.
“Our goal is to help you keep up – or catch up – with your world, no matter how much time you spend on Twitter,” product manager Paul Rosania wrote in a blog post announcing the change. “With a few improvements to the home timeline we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.”
The feature — you can think of it as an algorithmic In Case You Missed It — is intended to help Twitter with its user retention problem. The service is growing but not as fast as Wall Street analysts would like, and at a day-long session for investors in November, company executives promised that they would be taking measures to improve the user experience, especially for people new to Twitter or who have accounts they rarely use.
Recap, in testing since December, is one. Another coming this year is an “Instant Timeline” that will give new users a higher quality feed immediately without having to find and follow people.
Twitter’s timeline tinkering hasn’t been popular with power users of service, many of whom worry that Twitter will become more like Facebook and start using engagement signals to drastically reorder their feeds.
But if this is a step in that direction, it’s a small one, and Twitter vp of product Kevin Weil told the New York Times that there are no plans to change Twitter’s reverse chronological nature.
“This is not a move to a fully ranked timeline,” Weil said. “You’re going to see us continue to focus on real-time experiences.”