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Twitter enforces controversial new 'comment ranking' system

Twitter has added another controversial feature: ranking comments on tweets in order of what it thinks are "the most interesting" with no opt-out option.

Published onNovember 30, 2016


Some of you will have noticed a new Direct Reply count in Twitter, conveniently letting you know how many folks have replied to a tweet directly. This is good. But alongside this change, Twitter has also implemented a controversial new comment ranking system that discards the old chronological approach in favor of a popularity algorithm.

Unlike Twitter’s previous introduction of a Facebook-like ‘relevancy algorithm’ to your feed, the new comment ranking system is not opt-in (or opt-out for that matter). From now on, Twitter will sort the order of the comments on your tweets according to those it deems ‘the most interesting content in the conversation’.

Here’s what Twitter had to say about the new system:

“You may notice that some replies in a conversation are not shown in chronological order. Replies are grouped by sub-conversations because we strive to show you the best content first, and what we think you’d be most interested in. For example, when ranking a reply higher, we consider factors such as if the original Tweet author has replied, or if a reply is from someone you follow.”

Direct Reply count (left) and comments not in chronological order (right)

Ultimately, what Twitter is trying to do is ensure the comments you’re most likely to want to read first are the ones you see first. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most of us would prefer to see comments from our friends and follow-backers before random commenters in chronological order. This is the same theory applied to the ‘best tweets first’ option in your Twitter settings.

The problem lies in the fact that you can't opt out of comment ranking if you prefer the existing chronological approach.

The problem lies in the fact that you can’t opt out of comment ranking if you prefer the existing chronological approach. This detail alone is sure to irk more than a few users, and perhaps justifiably so.

As is well known, a large part of Twitter’s immense popularity is(was) based on its real-time chronological flow. Shifting to a more Facebook-like popularity contest is a big sea change for the platform. But it’s one that seems to be working.

At this point it’s not clear if Twitter will eventually allow users to choose whether or not to use the comment ranking system, but as always, if you want the choice to be yours, be sure to let Twitter know your thoughts. Maybe your tweet will get enough likes and replies to rise to the top where it’ll actually be visible.

Do you like the relevancy approach or would you prefer to be able to opt-in or out?

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