Twitter timelines

I think of Twitter’s timelines as “Home,” “Discover,” and “Activity,” because these are currently the only three swipeable streams in the mobile app. Everything else is buried someplace—lists, favorites, etc.

Lists are really just separate user-curated timelines (e.g., “Political journalists,” “College football,” “Philadelphia friends,” etc.), but they’re so buried as to be meaningless. I realize most users don’t create their own lists, and instead opt to follow users through their main “Home” timeline. I’m sure this is why lists were buried in the first place.

But I suspect the “Discover” and “Activity” timelines are also pretty neglected by most users. They contain lots of jargon and jumbled content that ordinary users don’t seem likely to engage. In my experience both of these timelines tend to just not be fun to engage, and generally low-value.

I would be a big fan of Twitter evolving lists into custom timelines, where the list functionality evolves and these custom timelines become part of the swipeable streams in the app. “Home” is then the timeline for tweets from everyone you’re following, and you swipe right for custom timelines that could be some mix of user generated (“Philadelphia friends”), Twitter-curated (“Ferguson,” “Super Bowl,” etc.), and location-based (“Neighborhood,” “Welcome to New York,” etc.)

Custom timelines could evolve Twitter at its core, driving both engagement and relevancy.

Suddenly Twitter isn’t simply a timeline of those you follow, plus two other algorithm-driven junk timelines. It’s instead your primary timeline, your home town (location-derived) timeline, your sports timeline, your (political/local/fashion/entertainment) news timeline, and one or two custom timelines. All easy to visually scan and swipe between in the app.

Letting users engage with Twitter in this way seems to recover some of the original intent behind lists, while also aligning with Twitter’s mission to “give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information” in a way that’s a little simpler.