Twitter’s “While You Were Away” Now Official; Rebranded as “Recaps”
In the first week of January 2015, a new Twitter feature called “while you were away” quietly made its presence felt. Some people were intrigued while others were confused as Twitter hadn’t released any official statements about the new feature.
Finally, on January 21, 2015, Twitter formally introduced the new feature after weeks of speculation. Paul Rosania (@ptr), Product Manager at Twitter, made the official announcement on the Twitter blog. “A lot can happen while you’re on the go. To fill in some of those gaps, we will surface a few of the best Tweets you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, determined by engagement and other factors,” he said.
“If you check in on Twitter now and then for a quick snapshot of what’s happening, you’ll see this recap more often; if you spend a lot of time on Twitter already, you’ll see it less.”
For those seeking clarification, the first thing that’s apparent is the rebranded name. As expected, calling the feature “while you were away” can be a mouthful—which is why Twitter has shortened the feature’s name to the “Recaps” feature.
Additionally, The New York Times (@nytimes) reported that the feature cannot be turned off, but users can get Recaps less frequently “if they dismiss it enough times by hitting the X at the top of the summary.” For the time being, Recaps can only be found on iOS devices, with Android and Twitter’s official website slated to get it soon. [See Figure 1]
Twitter has been rather vague about how its algorithms would determine the “best tweets” to display in Recaps. It was earlier speculated that “best tweets” would be tweets that have received plenty of Retweets, favorites, or replies. However, with the exception of “engagement and other factors” as their determinants, no further details were given.
Despite Rosania calling Recaps an “improvement,” and stating that it wouldn’t compromise “the real time nature of Twitter,” there are still those who continue to have cold feet over the changes being made to the Timeline. Due to the continuous stream of tweets that are sent daily, experts see the upcoming changes as a way for Twitter to retain new users who may otherwise feel overwhelmed by the whole Twitter experience and end up abandoning it.
On the other hand, others worry that highlighting special tweets and removing them from chronological order would defeat the purpose of having a Timeline. This could alienate Twitter’s long time users and decrease engagement rates.
In an interview with The New York Times, Twitter’s Vice President of Product, Kevin Weil (@kevinweil), addressed concerns that Twitter’s changes would make the service too similar to Facebook’s News Feed. Weil clarified that Twitter’s updates were not intended to create a “ranked” timeline as Twitter was still very much focused on “real-time experiences.”
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