Twitter Communities — the private, interest-based networking feature launched last year — will now gain their own algorithmic-based timelines, similar to Twitter’s Home timeline where the most relevant and engaging conversations will be surfaced. The company announced on Wednesday it would begin testing this option within Communities across iOS, Android and the web, initially with a select group of users.
In this test, the algorithmic-based timeline will be called the “For You” feed, while the chronological timeline will be dubbed “Latest.” Users will be able to switch back and forth between the two options, Twitter notes, and whichever option you set for a given Community will become the default every time you return to that group.
The company said the option will help users keep up with the top conversations in Communities where there is a lot of activity. It then pointed to Communities like a Harry Styles fan group a cooking community and the Xbox Community, as examples.
However, in our experience across more than 20 Communities, the issue is not one of struggling to keep up with all the conversations taking place — rather, it’s the lack of conversation that’s the issue.
But these new timeline options could help address that, too, as any tweets with engagement could be bumped up to the top of the feed. This could help make a quieter Community seem more active.
The idea behind Twitter Communities was to carve out a space within Twitter’s larger, public social network where people could connect with others who share the same interests. But in reality, there’s a lot of overlap between Communities and another Twitter feature, Topics, which helps people discover the conversation around a given subject by personalizing their feed with tweets, events and even ads related to the Topics they follow. In other words, if you’re just looking to tune into the conversation about Apple or startups, for example, you may as well just follow that Topic.
Although Communities could allow for users to more directly connect with people who regularly post about a particular topic, Twitter decided to implement the feature in an odd, semi-public format. Your tweets in Communities are public, but only other community members can reply. This design choice could be limiting participation, as users may not feel comfortable fanning out about their niche interests in public. And since the Community tweets are associated with your main Twitter identity, you still feel as exposed as when you’re posting to the global, public feed.
If you’re in the test group, you’ll be able to choose how you want to view your Community timelines from a new setting in the upper right-hand corner on each Community page, Twitter says, just like on the main Twitter Home timeline.
The change follows other updates to Communities, including giving mods and admins the ability to pin their Community Tweets (web), the addition of communities search (on web and iOS), mod/admin member removal (on web and Android) and member search (across all platforms).
Twitter notes more features will roll out to Communities over the coming months as the feature is further developed — a statement that seems to somewhat contradict the latest Bloomberg report that says work on consumer-facing features like Spaces, Communities and newsletters is now being scaled back amid a broader restructuring.