What if you could control what tweets you’re shown whenever you log into the app, with variable options to dictate how the algorithm works, and the order in which relevant tweets are presented, based on your personal preference?
That may well be on the cards, according to a new discovery by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong.
Twitter is working on “Content Control Tools”— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) May 31, 2022
From what it appears, it’ll provide a more official way for third parties to enhance the experience *within* the Twitter app, including letting the third party tools provide custom timelines
Third-party tools to provide custom timelines? How interesting.
The process would seemingly enable non-Twitter platforms to build additional algorithms, in variance to Twitter’s own, which would then enable new ways to experience the latest tweets.
Wong further notes that this could essentially enable users to ‘pick their own “algorithm”, not just Twitter’s Home Timeline algorithm’.
That concept has been floated in various forms in the past, while more algorithmic transparency has also been a key element of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover push.
More recently, Musk has taken to criticizing Twitter’s current algorithm sorting, which he claims is manipulating the user experience.
Very important to fix your Twitter feed:— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2022
1. Tap home button.
2. Tap stars on upper right of screen.
3. Select “Latest tweets”.
You are being manipulated by the algorithm in ways you don’t realize.
Easy to switch back & forth to see the difference.
The solution, in Musk’s view, is to open up the algorithm, which would then enable users to better understand the inner workings of the platform’s systems, so that they can make more informed choices about their in-app experiences.
Twitter has been exploring similar for some time through its ‘Bluesky’ initiative, though the core idea that regular users could have a better understanding of such systems may not be as simple in practice, with a level of code knowledge likely required to fully grasp the complexities of such when laid out bare.
An alternative could lie in open sourcing Twitter’s algorithmic parameters, and enabling developers to build new, custom algorithms that users could then choose from in order to personalize their tweet experience.
As explained by Nathan Baschez:
“For example I’d want to try an algorithm that attempts to prioritize nuanced conversations about important topics. Maybe someone else would want algorithms to find mind-expanding threads, savage dunks, or thirst traps of hot new snax.”
That, seemingly, could be what Twitter’s working towards with this new update in the code, which, as Wong notes, points to other providers building what would essentially be a marketplace for different algorithms, inside the app.
It could change a lot about the broader Twitter experience, and marketing approaches.
We asked Twitter about Wong’s discovery and it provided this statement:
“We’re always looking into new ways to experiment with new developer-built features for the timeline. We'll share more about our work here soon.”
Sounds like this is exactly what’s coming – though it’s too early to speculate on what exactly ‘content control tools’ will mean for the broader tweet experience.
But it could be a big shift – and with Elon already behind it, it’d also be likely to survive the eventual (likely) takeover, which could even make this a priority project.
There’s a lot to consider within this. A totally different Twitter feed for everyone. A marketplace to update and change your timeline. A new way to learn more about algorithmic amplification.
The next stage of Twitter could look a lot different to its current state.