Over the weekend, we caught wind that Twitter was testing some new ways of showing you tweets in your timeline, specifically from folks that you don’t actually follow. It turns out this is official policy. Get ready to see a lot of stuff you didn’t ask for.
Quartz reports that Google updated the FAQ section of its website to make it clear that your timeline isn’t just for tweets from people you follow. It can also be anything Twitter feels like you should know about. Specifically, Quartz points out the following language, emphasis mine:
Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.
Over the weekend people started complaining that they were seeing favs by their friends in their timelines. More gallingly, Twitter has also reportedly been testing showing news stories that seemingly don’t have anything to do with the people you follow. Previously, feeds of this type of information were reserved for other sections of Twitter’s desktop and mobile services or for experiments you could voluntarily opt-into.
Now, Twitter says that not only will you see your friend’s favourites, you’ll also be seeing the really annoying stuff that’s unrelated to your friends. If you meet X, Y, Z criteria, congrats, Fox News tweets in your timeline. Ugh.
In a way it feels like an intrusion. You chose who to follow so why the heck should Twitter get to fill your feed with stuff that’s not quite what you want?
The obvious reason is that Twitter has a lot to gain from taking a little more control over what you’re seeing. In a way, it’s not that different from the promoted and sponsored tweets that have been part of you Twitter timeline for a while. The main difference is that nobody’s actually paid now. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pay for Twitter. The only one that loses is you — if you don’t like it. [Twitter via Quartz]