During remarks at a financial conference in New York this week, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto suggested that the popular site plans to tinker with the structure of its users’ feeds. According to Noto, the current organization of Twitter’s timeline in reverse chronological order “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user” and the service is thinking about how to better present and arrange its content. This seems to be taking Twitter down a path similar to Facebook, where your timeline may not be current, and not always what you proactively opt to see.
All this makes me nostalgic for the Old Twitter.
Travel back in time with me, if you will, to 2008, the Year I Joined Twitter. At that time, the service had about 5 million users (compared to today’s 271 million monthly active users), mostly in North America. Twitter was just emerging as a “personal news wire” for broadcasting and tracking events in real-time. More than anything, it was a way to connect with friends and new acquaintances who shared common interests or geography. About 90 people followed me and I followed a few more than 100. Some of those followers were known to me “in real life” and some were not.
In 2008, we were experimenting, feeling out this new public platform for interpersonal communication. Now, we are monetizing, evangelizing and revolutionizing. All of these things are great for a thousand reasons but as I see Noto’s comments and experience what a global presence Twitter has become, I can honestly say that I miss the old one just a little bit. Here are four reasons:
It was Authentic
No one was developing strategies or approaches or “voices” for appearing authentic. They just were.
Users were Responsive
The Twitter universe was so small that any sort of engagement – new follower, reply, re-tweet – was kind of a big deal. Tweets directed at a fellow user almost always received a response. Now entire companies and even separate platforms are being built just to help users track and prioritize engagement.
The Community was Forgiving
I will admit to doing something really stupid on Twitter in my newbie days. I publicly Tweeted a picture that was meant to be sent to one person as a Direct Message. It was not salacious, thankfully, but it was a bit childish and not exactly professional. I quickly caught the error, deleted the Tweet and laughed it off with my tiny group of followers. If the same thing happened today, and it has to countless others including major public organizations, I am not so sure the outcome would have been the same.
It was Simple
Back in 2008, users logged into Twitter.com and viewed a feed consisting of real-time Tweets from people they proactively followed. They posted, replied, re-tweeted and direct messaged. That was it. There were no lists, third-party apps, dashboards, promoted Tweets, trends and no complicated algorithms. And automation? Nope. It was simple and it was sweet. And I miss it sometimes.
The leaps Twitter has made since its inception have had a positive impact on culture and business in innumerable ways. But all the good it has done doesn’t keep me from missing the old Twitter, just a little bit. Is anybody with me?