I finally saw the new conversations rendering show up in my Twitter stream today:
The lowdown: Twitter has moved things around so that the series of tweets in an exchange among two or more people (using the Twitter reply capability) will be displayed in chronological order (oldest first). The Twitter stream is in reverse chronological order (newest first). The thinking is that the old display — which was reverse chronological and only showed the latest reply — is confusing for new users, and Twitter has said that it has a very high churn among newbies.
The old regime where you have to be following at least two of the participants to see a conversation is still in place, but Twitter is trying hard to make the service more involving by showing more people involved in active conversations.
Om Malik thinks this minor UX tweak is a big deal, because this new model is more like Facebook posts:
Conversation tweets start to look like comments on a blog post or on a Facebook posting.
Participating in those conversations means that people who are on Twitter will hang about longer because they will be focused on discrete conversations. It is the same reason why most of us leave Facebook turned on in a browser window or a Facebook app running in the background.
The conversation view is in fact the final step in Twitter’s attempt to become like Facebook. Over past few months, Twitter has introduced many new elements or object types to its timeline. Photos (which lead to a fracas with Instagram,) Music, Videos (via Vine), and Twitter Cards in addition to pre-existing objects that were shared on Twitter such as status updates, location information and links.
And by turning tweets into conversations, the company has introduced the ultimate Facebook-like object — status/comments/conversations into its stream. Twitter’s Favorite is its proxy for Facebook’s Like. The next thing I expect from Twitter — inline content consumption a la Pocket. And when that happens, Twitter will have turned the 140-character limit into the ultimate payload carrying content-object missile.
Twitter needs new users. Twitter needs users to hang about longer. Twitter needs them to sell more ads and thus make more revenue and go public. As expected many of us early adopters who got used to Twitter’s fast-moving stream are finding the new changes (around conversations) unsettling, but we all need to get used to it.
The reverse chronological streams that were the mainstay of social platforms are going the way of Web 2.0.
I don’t agree that reverse chronological (newest first) is going to go away from social streams. It’s a logical primary view. But in threaded discussions and Twitter conversations chronological (oldest first) provides the correct temporal context. So those of us who have gotten used to the reverse for conversations will have to flip the bit in our heads to play nicely with the newbies so that Twitter’s IPO can happen on schedule.