A tale of two timelines: Twitter rolls back its latest update

15 Mar 2022

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

The platform is removing its timeline change ‘for now’ after users raised concerns that they couldn’t set a reverse-chronological order as default.

Twitter has rolled back its decision to default to an algorithm-based timeline after receiving pushback from users.

In a feature announced last week, the platform said users would be able to swipe between two different timelines showing top tweets or latest tweets.

Future Human

Users would be able to pin the Latest timeline next to the Home feed and switch between the two tabs. While Home would display top tweets curated by an algorithm based on user data, Latest would show the most recent tweets in a reverse-chronological order.

However, many users expressed frustration that the app would make Home the default timeline setting instead of allowing users to choose. Now Twitter is going back to the drawing board.

“We heard you — some of you always want to see latest tweets first,” the Twitter Support account tweeted yesterday (14 March).

“We’ve switched the timeline back and removed the tabbed experience for now while we explore other options.”

Twitter began testing the new feature in October last year, after users said they wanted to have a choice over the order tweets are displayed in.

Last Thursday (10 March), Twitter rolled out the feature to all iOS devices and said Android and the web would have it “soon”.

Users were able tap the sparkle icon on the top-right corner of the app and then select ‘Pin your Latest timeline’ to enable the toggle feature. Once enabled, users were shown two timeline options at the top of the screen, Home and Latest, which could be switched between with a swipe.

But many users were not on board with the change.

“The new version of Twitter takes up even more screen space at the top with features you don’t want and as a bonus cuts off half the first tweet in your feed,” tweeted CNBC tech correspondent Steve Kovach last week.

Tech reporter Casey Newton called Twitter’s constant reversion to the default Home timeline the company’s “worst product decision in ages”.

Some pointed out that this new feature would undermine a user’s choice to see latest tweets only, which is relevant for accessing breaking news content.

Erica Joy Baker, chief technology officer of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the US, called out Twitter for overriding “the explicit choice” users may make to view latest tweets in the middle of a pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine.

In another timeline revamp, Twitter announced last week that it was testing new alt text features to make image descriptions easier to access for people who are blind or have low vision.

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published at 11.21am on Monday, 14 March 2022.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com