Potentially horrifying news depending on how you use Twitter. The company is testing a new “feature” whereby tweets that you have favourited will act like retweets, and will be shown in the timelines of the people who follow you.
That’s right – just like a retweet. The feature has only rolled out to a handful of users at the moment as it is in the testing phase – unfortunately for Twitter, one of the people was a technology journalist:
Twitter filling my feed with stuff I didn't ask for – stuff other people follow and fav. pic.twitter.com/IVOViGF1QW
— Peter Kafka (@pkafka) August 17, 2014
Whilst meddling with how Twitter works shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who remembers when they bought Tweetdeck and ruined it, or made the API usage rights more draconian (hey, stop calling me bitter), it could still be potentially alarming.
Whilst Twitter has created the feature under the assumption that people will “favourite” tweets that they like, many others use the functionality as more of a bookmarking system – providing quick access to tweets they want to check back on later. Some users even feed favourites automatically into other services, such as “Read Later” on Feedly. This means that if you’ve favourited that job advert or NSFW link, it could soon be showing up in your boss’s or your mum’s timeline.
Of course, favourites have always been technically public, but to view them you have had to go to a profile and click on the favourites – pointing them out like this completely changes the relative obscurity and the context in which they are viewed. Similarly, “favourite” has always been a strange word to use – I’d much prefer “bookmark”, because who doesn’t feel weird when “favouriting” a news story about a terrible tragedy to read later?
Here’s hoping Twitter roll this feature back and think again.