I wasn’t actually intending to write a follow-up to my Useless product innovations #1 post (the opening line, “And now for a new regular feature…” was a reference to the running joke in Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge where a new regular feature is introduced every week and never seen again). However, I have to speak out against Twitter’s new ‘innovation’, which is that it algorithmically picks tweets from people you don’t follow, which it thinks you might be interested in, and plonks them in your timeline.
Sponsored tweets, which are essentially the same thing, but determined by the tweeter paying Twitter to promote it, were bad enough. But Twitter needed a way to make money, and at least they were easy to differentiate quickly, and skip over – they came with a “sponsored tweet” heading and were generally from commercial brands.
These interloper tweets are more difficult to differentiate, and consequently more annoying. They also destroy what was best about Twitter, its USP: that you could define your own experience, by choosing which accounts to follow. If Twitter is now defining our experience, by choosing itself what should be put in front of us, it’s no longer the gloriously chaotic maelstrom of free communication which helped it change the world. It’s just another centrally edited feedsite.
But what’s most annoying is how completely unnecessary this ‘innovation’ is. Twitter must be subject to the same wrongheaded compulsion that exists in many companies, that they must constantly innovate in order to survive. They believe that if they don’t keep changing their model, they’ll fall behind and won’t be the ‘next big thing’.
Here’s some news for you, Twitter: you’re not going to be the next big thing. You were the last big thing (several iterations ago, actually), therefore you cannot possibly be the next big thing. The next big thing will be something completely new and original. It won’t be Twitter slightly modified.
The best thing you can do at the moment, Twitter, is keep your position as one of the established giants of social media, and continue to survive, by not making yourself worse. And that’s exactly what ‘suggested tweets’ does.