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Twitter Is Testing a New Order for Tweets

The reverse chronological timeline is getting a makeover.

Kurt Wagner

One of Twitter’s most distinctive characteristics has always been that its content shows up in reverse chronological order — meaning that whoever tweets first is inevitably last on your timeline.

But now Twitter is testing a new timeline order for some users that ignores that standard and inserts some tweets higher up in the queue. A company spokesperson confirmed the experiment to Re/code but declined to share details on how it decides which tweets should be bumped up.

The obvious explanation is that Twitter is looking for ways to surface its best content. It’s clear that Twitter is using some kind of algorithm to determine which tweets merit a break in the timeline — it’s already doing something similar with its “while you were away” feature that showcases top tweets sent since the last time you opened the app. It’s probable this new experiment uses the same (or very similar) signals.

Tuesday’s test is worth pointing out for two reasons. It’s clear that Twitter is working very hard to make sure people can find the “best” tweets on the service, something that has always been a challenge. It’s the key reason Twitter launched Moments, to surface the best tweets around specific real-world events.

But moving away from the reverse chronological order is also a sign that CEO Jack Dorsey isn’t afraid to mess with the company’s signature product characteristics. It’s why Twitter is working on a product to let users tweet more than 140 characters. These are big changes that many of the product’s die-hard users are not supportive of. But it’s clear that Dorsey needs to grow the company’s stagnant user total, and that means tough decisions.

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