People on Twitter (TWTR) are kind of freaking out right now. BuzzFeed reported last Friday that Twitter was preparing to roll out an algorithmic timeline as early as this week. Instead of displaying tweets in reverse chronological order like it always had, an algorithmic timeline would be curated and display what the algorithms think the user will find most relevant and engaging. This isn't the first time that rumors have surfaced that Twitter was considering such a move, and it likely won't be the last.
Of course, this would make Twitter a whole lot more like Facebook (META 3.70%), which has long algorithmically curated its core News Feed. Tweeters are even going as far as to say that Twitter is now dead, starting the hashtag #RIPTwitter, and many are threatening to ditch the service should it make the switch.
Jack is back
The public backlash has gotten so out of hand that Jack Dorsey has personally taken to Twitter to respond. Dorsey said that the company had never planned to implement an algorithmic timeline this week.
Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we're always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
You may note that Dorsey did not deny the underlying report itself, only the timing. He attempted to calm users by reiterating that Twitter will always be focused on real-time livestreaming content.
I *love* real-time. We love the live stream. It's us. And we're going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
Dorsey had a few other tweets to address the concerns, and ended with an appreciative note for all the feedback.
Thank you all for your passion and trust. We will continue to work to earn it, and we will continue to listen, and talk!— Jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
But here's the thing: Twitter should ignore these users.
You have to remember the underlying reason why Twitter is considering such a wide range of changes to its core product in the first place: it's too hard to use and that's limiting user growth. Dorsey made it very clear when he came back as CEO that the product needs to be dramatically improved, which has been management's key focus in recent months. Anything that makes the product more approachable, more intuitive, and easier to use is a good thing, even if any prospective change undermines Twitter's quirky personality.
Who matters more?
Consider three key groups of Twitter stakeholders: investors, customers, and users.
Investors are absolutely frustrated with the company and its stagnant growth. Shares now trade around $15, far less than the $26 IPO price, not to mention the all-time high of nearly $75. Shareholders recognize the flaws in the business. Much like investors, advertising customers would also like Twitter to expand its reach and grow its user base. That would make the platform that much more attractive as a broadcasting tool. The backlash that we're seeing is mostly a small but vocal minority of users. To be clear, a small number of Twitter users can be very influential, due to the asymmetrical nature of the platform to begin with. A single celebrity with 2 million followers quitting could definitely have an impact.
Again, the whole point of making core product changes such as an algorithmically curated timeline would be to attract new users, even at the risk of alienating a small number of current users. Sure, Dorsey must acknowledge the feedback in a professional manner, but ultimately he needs to do what's best for the company.