As Twitter tries out bigger things to spur growth activity — like changing the order and length of tweets — it is turning away from others. Twitter has quietly retired Magic Recs, a strikingly effective bot account that used to send you DMs recommending viral accounts or Tweets to follow, run by an algorithm that measured how many others you knew were following an account or Tweet in quick succession.
Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch it had stopped sending Magic Recs. It is now channelling recommendations through only one channel — native push notifications on your phone. (And since I enquired, it’s also made a small update on its notifications help page.)
“@MagicRecs is no longer regularly sending recommendations through Direct Message. Recommendations that were previously shared via Direct Message are now delivered via push notification,” a spokesperson noted in a written statement.
Magic Recs first started to appear around June of 2013, and the push notifications — essentially alerts that are not tweets but appear in the notifications tab on your mobile, activated through your notifications settings — were first activated some months later, in September.
Push notifications and Magic Recs coexisted side-by-side for 2.5 years until very recently. (My last one was in February; Sarah Perez tells me her last Magic Rec was in March.) Magic Rec’s Twitter public account was never very active: its last Tweet (a reply to someone) was just over a year ago.
Magic Recs was the first and perhaps the best known of Twitter’s DM-based notifications, but there were others. Another Twitter experiment built on the same premise — Event Parrot, for news alerts — also is no longer sending DMs.
The news comes at a key time for Twitter. This week the company reported Q1 earnings that highlighted how the social media platform continues to face challenges when it comes to attracting users, with user growth virtually flat.
At a time when Twitter is looking for catchy things to capture more audience, it’s ironic that Magic Recs bot would stop working just as bots were starting to become a thing.
Doubly ironic is the fact that Magic Recs was a bot that actually worked when some have flopped. Like many others who followed it, I praised Magic Recs for being uncannily accurate in predicting interesting accounts to follow and tweets to watch. Twitter could have turned it into something that people could even pull for more Recs.
There is some sense in why Twitter might have wanted to push those recommendations into push notifications, so to speak. You had to follow Magic Recs to get it to work for you, which was probably a barrier to entry for most users and defeated the idea of pushing stuff to less active people. @MagicRecs had just under 112,000 followers.
Push notifications, on the other hand, are open to all mobile users, of which there are now 257.3 million (83% of Twitter’s 310 million monthly active users). And it seems they are turned on by default in iOS. (You can turn these and other notifications off in Settings on the app.)
Weirdly, I can’t recall seeing any alerts in recent times that fall into the category of recommended push notifications to replace it (yes, I’ve checked and I had it turned on). I’m not the only one, it seems. Apparently push recommendations may come at different rates for different people.