While Twitter's latest platform experiment is less secretive and controversial than say, Facebook's little mood stunt, users still aren't particularly happy about the fact that favorited tweets are now being displayed as retweets on Twitter feeds. That's right, if you've noticed tweets on your timeline that aren't from accounts you follow, you're not alone, and it's not a Twitter bug — the company is now allowing others to see the tweets you've favorited, just like they were retweets.
This means that soon enough, you might be seeing more tweets from people you don't follow than people you do, which represents a pretty serious departure from one of Twitter's core tenets — its follow system. Considering Twitter's last experiment a couple months ago that allowed you to mute all the people you didn't want to hear from without committing the cardinal sin of unfollowing them, the idea of allowing even more annoying people you never signed up to listen to in the first place into your timeline seems a bit . . . strange, at best.
But beyond simply taking up valuable timeline real estate, the other issue at hand with visible favorites has to do with privacy. Of the three things you can do on Twitter, tweeting, retweeting, and favoriting, it is the favoriting that seems the most private. The only person notified of your favorite is the tweeter — otherwise, you can favorite away in relative secrecy. Unless someone is systematically clicking to see who has favorited every single tweet, your chances of discovery are rather low.
Of course, this doesn't mean that favorites were ever completely confidential. After all, Anthony Weiner was caught favoriting "Tinder will now be the ultimate sext machine" in one of the most uncomfortable moments in politics this year. But even so, that text didn't show up in Anthony Weiner's followers' timelines. Now, with the new system in place, it is possible for all of the Weiner's dirty laundry to be aired.
A scary, scary thought.
And if that's not enough change for you to handle, Twitter has another new feature in the works: The platform is also toying with a new notification system that alerts you when someone you follow follows someone new. This seems like a horribly disappointing feature — after all, if I don't have a new follower, I don't want to be notified that someone else does.
These latest changes follow a string of other minor edits the Twitter team has made over the past few months. Retweeting has been particularly contentious, as Twitter experimented with a "comment to retweet" set-up back in July. Whereas the current retweet setup doesn't exactly allow you to add much commentary, as the 140-character limit is rather suffocating when it comes to sharing your own thoughts in addition to someone else's, the new comment to retweet function displays the original tweet as a "Twitter Card."
Because Twitter Cards don't contribute to the character count, it allows the retweeter to add as much context as his or her heart desires. Of course, this wasn't exactly met with great fanfare, as those who noticed the changes were less than pleased.
Users are reacting quite similarly to the most recent changes — after all, it does almost make a favorite seem like an endorsement given the potential reach that little golden star would now have. And considering many users take care to ensure followers that retweets are not to be considered endorsements, adding favorites to the mix seems like a poor idea.
To be fair, this is not the first time that favorites are being made available to the curious user — the "Discover" tab allows you to look at tweets any user has recently favorited, and for those of us who enjoy this feature of Twitter, more public favorites is a great step forward. But for others, spontaneously appearing favorited tweets is both annoying as a reader and a bit worrisome as a tweeter.
Because of the public backlash that generally accompanies any sort of change (remember when the newsfeed wasn't a thing on Facebook?) Twitter only tests out its newest features on a small handful of its users, so don't be concerned if you've never noticed any of these tweaks.
Depending on the general reaction of its test population, Twitter will determine whether or not to move forward with its new features. So be warned, tweeters of the world, the fate of your Twitter timeline rests in the palms of a small handful of your fellow users — better hope their tastes align with yours.