Twitter timeline tweak helps you catch up on missed tweets

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As promised, Twitter is now surfacing tweets you missed to the top of your timeline in its official iOS app. It’s a move comparable to Facebook’s algorithmic tweaking of your News Feed, though at least Twitter will file missed tweets under a “While you were away…” banner.

Twitter won’t completely veer off its reverse chronological course. The constant and real-time stream of content is exactly why people use the platform.

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Twitter's app will file major tweets you missed under a new label, "While you were away."

“Our goal is to help you keep up—or catch up—with your world, no matter how much time you spend on Twitter,” product manager Paul Rosania said in a Wednesday blog post. “With a few improvements to the home timeline we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.”

Meanwhile, Facebook’s curated feed of most “important” stories always draws criticism for burying posts people want to see. But while Facebook always feels like a smallish social circle, Twitter can seem like a club of insiders, where people keep their timelines open all day long and private jokes run rampant. The network, which went public last year, has struggled to capture the attention of new users who aren’t journalists and tech-minded folks. Power users don’t tend to miss much, but if you only open the Twitter app once or twice a day, you’ll be completely out of the loop. The new “while you were away” feature will make Twitter feel less like a private club and more like a welcoming platform.

Twitter teased the new feature last October, shortly after starting to show people tweets from users they don’t follow. That move was unpopular, but Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said it was designed to offer fresh content when there was nothing new to show you. You can’t turn it off, and it’s unclear if you can opt out of missed tweets.

With shareholders apparently unsatisfied with Twitter’s roadmap for the future, Costolo has a series of product updates in store for 2015 to attract new users and encourage the 500 million visitors who never sign in to actually use the network. “While you were away” is the first attempt. If you’re not an avid Twitter user, will this convince you to open the app more? Let us know in the comments.

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