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Twitter rolls out easier way to switch between latest and top tweets

Sometimes you just don't want to see tweets from last night's basketball game on your timeline.

Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco. 
James Martin/CNET

The power to easily change your Twitter timeline is now in your hands. 

On Tuesday, Twitter said it was rolling out a simpler way for users to switch between a display of tweets chosen by an algorithm or the most recent tweets from accounts they follow. 

Twitter users will see a new sparkle icon that allows them to switch between the latest or top tweets. 


Twitter users who browse the social media site on an iPhone will be able to do so by clicking on a sparkle icon at the top of their timeline. The change is expected to roll out on Android and desktop after the holidays. 

Twitter released an algorithmic timeline in 2016, but users have to go to the site's settings to switch it off. 

The company uses various signals to determine which tweets could be more relevant to users. That includes who you interact with on Twitter, the length of a tweet, when it was posted, the device you're using and other factors. 

In September, the company said it was working on a way to give users more control over their timeline and started testing the new tool

Wally Gurzynski, a product manager at Twitter, said the company found there were different situations in which users preferred seeing top tweets instead of the most recent ones. When Twitter users wake up in the morning, they might want to see the algorithmic timeline to catch up on tweets they missed while they were asleep. But during live events such as a basketball game, Twitter users might prefer seeing the latest tweets first. 

"It wasn't exactly black and white," Gurzynski said. "There were different circumstances where people preferred different tweets."

The algorithm that Twitter is using remains the same, he said.

Twitter users who tested the new tool also reported they were more satisfied with the experience and are participating more actively in conversations on the platform, according to the tech firm.

Twitter, which has struggled to attract new users, has been rolling out changes aimed at helping their users stay informed and participate on the site. It's made it easier for users to follow live events and expanded the length of tweets to 280 characters

But the use of algorithms has also raised concerns that social media companies might be reinforcing certain political viewpoints or biases by surfacing posts they think its users want to see, creating a "filter bubble."

"There are a lot of algorithms in the products that we all use and people have these questions about them," said Keith Coleman, vice president of product at Twitter. "They wonder is this algorithm helping me? Is it good for me? And often it's hard to really know."

While the company thinks the algorithmic timeline improves the experience, Coleman noted that making it simple for users to switch between the type of timeline increases transparency. 

As the company heads into the new year, it's also been looking at other ways to fuel more positive conversations on Twitter while making it easier to use the site and follow live events. 

When asked if Twitter will release a way to edit tweets next year, Coleman said "there are some secrets we just have to keep."

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