Why Twitter is showing you favorites from people you follow

A few weeks ago, Twitter began showing you tweets from people you don’t follow. It was mystifying: The intruders looked like retweets, but were actually tweets that had been favorited by people you follow. Twitter remained mum on the subject, and people began panicking that the network was adopting an algorithmic timeline, similar to Facebook’s News Feed. But Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has an explanation, and it’s simpler than you’d think.

As you scroll through your timeline, you eventually run out of tweets to read. So you scroll back up and pull to refresh. If you do that twice and Twitter has nothing new to show you, then you’ll start seeing unfamiliar faves. It’s just to give you something new to read, Costolo tweeted over the weekend.

Many of Twitter’s power users were outraged when the network began surfacing those favorited tweets. Then the company updated its “What’s a Twitter timeline?” help document to include this statement: “Additionally, when we identify a tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.”

It began to look like Twitter was edging into Facebook’s territory. The change inspired deep thoughts about what a fave even means. But with Costolo’s clarification, it now looks like the network is placing unfamiliar tweets in your timeline only when it has nothing else to give you. See? Not so serious (or scary) after all.

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