Talking tech since 2003

I’ve been a heavy Twitter user since the early days of the social network, so when Twitter began totally switched up one of the most basic, key aspects of the social network yesterday, I was floored. In the context of conversing, the change – which is now rolling out to all users – is simple and makes sense: Twitter has essentially flipped the order of conversations, which have traditionally been displayed from newest to oldest, now displaying them with the oldest tweet on top and the newest tweet on the bottom. It’s clear why Twitter has done this: in traditional instant messaging services, this is the way conversations have almost always been displayed to as to give a proper feel of “progression”. But in the context of Twitter, this is a huge, radical change.

This is a complete rethinking of the way that the timeline, the most key aspect of Twitter, has worked ever since the inception of Twitter. Whether you’re using a web app, iOS app, Android app, or so on and so forth – open up a dedicated Twitter client. Notice that everything – from the root Timeline, to mentions, to favorites, to lists, to search, and even Direct Messages – is ordered from oldest on the bottom to newest on the top. It’s an easy way to make sure that you always get a look at the latest, and therefor most relevant, content at any given time. Not to mention the simple fact that such an order has been native to Twitter from the start. It just feels right.

Twitter has never been a replacement for an instant messaging service. Mentions, also known as “@ replies”, served as a method of creating a basic threaded conversation, but they have never been a primary mode of Twitter – until now, that is. By giving mentions a unique view, Twitter is essentially promoting the thought of “Twitter conversations” to something that can be done to something that should be none. Twitter has broken tradition to abide by the rules of conversations, rather than making conversations abide by the rules of Twitter. It’s an interesting – and not at all insignificant – change.

Perhaps it’s a change that Twitter needed to make. Maybe, just maybe, Twitter is seeing this as an opportunity to jump into the digital communications race that has been cropping up lately. Perhaps Twitter is looking at this as a way to fight iMessage, Hangouts, WhatsApp, and BBM in an effort to make people think of Twitter in a new, conversation centric way. That would make sense; Twitter may have started off as a simple “micro” blogging service, but in reality the Twitter of 2013 really is so much more. But it’s also a significant shift away from the spirit of Twitter, and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Twitter has also released an update for their dedicated iOS and Android applications bringing the new, flipped conversation view to mobile devices. If you’re like me and are afraid of change, may I recommend you look into one of the many excellent third-party applications on both platforms? TweetBot (iOS, $2.99) and Plume (Android, free) are both excellent and are immune to this change.

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