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Twitter flips the script with timeline conversations

The information network bucks its reverse chronological tradition to put replies inline with conversations.

Now appearing on Twitter: A line that connects linked conversations in members' timelines. Screenshot/Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

With an update to its Web, iOS, and Android apps, Twitter is altering a seven-year practice of showing people tweets in a reverse chronological fashion exactly as they file in. Beginning Wednesday, the information network will flip the script by grouping together strings of tweets in conversations in members' timelines.

The time-alerting update means that Twitter will show up to three tweets in chronological order, connected by a vertical line, in a person's home timeline as a means of providing immediate clarity to the conversations evolving in real time, a circumstance that often makes replies look out of context.

"We've now made it easier for you to see conversations as they're taking place," Twitter product manager Jinen Kamdar wrote in a blog post. "Tweets that are part of a conversation are shown in chronological order so it's easier for you to follow along."

Twitter is grouping tweet conversations so that members have an easier time keeping up with the chit-chat, be it related to friendly exchanges or television shows, that flies by in their streams. The change will no doubt affect how people follow 140-character discussions, particularly those related to breaking news or viral memes in the making, and seems crafted to get people to dive deeper into news or exchanges between friends. In theory, ordered conversations should help solve the problem of Twitter being too complicated for newcomers, an issue identified by CEO Dick Costolo earlier this year.

Though Twitter is fudging with the order of tweets in conversations, the company is staying true to its real-time nature. Say you tweet about a television show and friends tweet a reply -- the conversation is bumped to the top of the timeline with the original tweet and replies inline, and connected with the aforementioned vertical line. Conversations are unique to each person, which means you won't see tweets from people you don't follow directly in your timeline.

Wednesday's Twitter updates also allow people to share conversations via e-mail and report individual tweets as spam. On Android, Twitter said its application is now better suited for entry-level devices with limited storage, meaning the app should be faster to download and install.