Depending on your point of view, Twitter either just denied a rumor about the future of the service, or it blinked in the face of universally negative reaction. Either way, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has this afternoon taken to his personal account to directly address the #RIPTwitter controversy that exploded overnight in response to reports that, beginning next week, the social media powerhouse’s reverse chronological newsfeed would be replaced by a algorithmic feed similar to the one Facebook uses.
“Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we’re always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week,” Dorsey insisted. His comments came as the hashtag #RIPTwitter had spent the morning as the top trending item among users in the United States, also charting heavily in other countries, and the story of user discontent was picked up by media outlets worldwide. “Twitter is live. Twitter is real-time. Twitter is about who & what you follow,” he added. “And Twitter is here to stay! By becoming more Twitter-y.”
Twitter has been testing an algorithmic feed on randomly selected user accounts since November. But while response to that test was not positive, it was muted due to the limited number of people affected by it. However, following a report published by Buzzfeed yesterday that the switch would soon affect all users, reaction was immediate, and overwhelming. #RIPTwitter, previously a somewhat obscure outlet for user frustration, was revived with a vengeance as users tweeted at one another, and at Twitter executives, to complain.
The situation may have been worsened last night when Twitter employees waded somewhat aggressively into the debate. Sr. Director of Product Jeff Seibert snarked about the controversy and accused outraged users of jumping to conclusions, though he did not provide clarification as to what had been misunderstood, which served only to fuel user frustration. A senior software developer for the company offered similar comments, and later expressed shock at the abusive tone of responses he received. This complicated the discussion even further, as it prompted many observers to refer back to criticisms that Twitter has consistently failed to take action to stem the problem of harassment by a subset of Twitter users.
But, according to Dorsey, the service will in fact largely remain the same. “Look at “while you were away” at the top of your TL,” he tweeted. “Tweets you missed from people you follow. Pull to refresh to go back to real-time.” He added that “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!”
The rumor of changes to its newsfeed comes after a rough few months for Twitter. Several key executives departed the company in January amid a serious reorganization at the top, and it posted weaker than expected earnings back in October. Further, the report of a switch to algorithmic timelines came as trading yesterday saw Twitter’s share price decline by 7%.