Last week the Twitter CFO made waves when he said that Twitter needs “an algorithm that delivers the depth and breadth of the content we have on a specific topic and then eventually as it relates to people.” That’s code for a filtered and managed timeline ala Facebook.
The twitterati and internet punditry class exploded with criticism, and rightly so. The most relevant point I saw on the topic hits the nail on the head:
If @twitter wants to offer a filtered feed as part of its service, fine, that’s totally cool. But this is killing *their only feature*.— Eric Sipple (@saalon) September 4, 2014
Sure, Twitter executives may think that a reverse chronological feed “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user,” but it’s their only differentiating feature. It’s the very heart of what Twitter is. The unmanaged firehose of information of tweets is the user experience.
Facebook is a cesspool for most people. Aside from its ability to drive traffic—which is both it’s best and worst feature—Facebook is practically useless for catching up on breaking news, following your friends and contacts in real time, or wide open conversations. Twitter excels at all of these use cases because of the current timeline structure.
There are lots of interesting implications for Twitter and the internet, but one particular idea struck me immediately. I think RSS will see a comeback.
Four the last four years, one of the dominant narratives around Twitter is that it killed RSS. I never thought Twitter was a great competitor to RSS, but the results of the last few years disagree. Many users and publishers have adopted Twitter as their de facto standard for syndication.
Real time syndication will be hurt badly by a drastic change to the timeline, and I bet RSS has a comeback. It has all of the advantages of the open web that have shown to be so resilient over time. Most of all, it cannot be manipulated at the whim of a public company, and so far that is a killer feature on the internet.