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Twitter introduces custom timelines

I learned about Twitter’s new custom timelines feature when I logged in to Tweetdeck this morning. I have to admit, like this user, I immediately thought of Storify.

After all, custom timelines does exactly what Storify does — well, if you discount the fact that Storify includes tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram images, RSS feeds, plain old Web pages, and more. I mean, if forget all of that, then I suppose custom timelines are like Storify — a really inadequate version clone of it.

But then again, perhaps it’s not that inadequate. Twitter is, after all, the running water cooler conversation of the (online and tech savvy) country. Twitter’s owners want to make sure it stays that way. Hence we have a new tool to use Twitter in a slightly different way than we could before.

How slight is the difference? Well, consider your favorites list on Twitter. Many people use the “favorite” button as a sort of “like” button. For me, it’s a much more selective process; I probably add six tweets to my favorites list per year. At any rate, all you’re doing with the favorites tool is creating a custom timeline.

Then consider lists — a feature I contend Twitter is trying to phase out because of how inconveniently the company has placed it in its native iOS apps. Lists create custom timelines as well. The difference being that you only control the people on them and not the individual tweets.

Finally, remember the humble retweet. When you retweet something, it too goes on to a timeline of your RTs — same as a custom timeline.

In fact, the only new feature of custom timelines is proliferation. You can have only one list of RTs and one favorites list, but you can make as many custom timelines as you want.

That’s the slight difference, and I think it’s probably interesting enough to foster all kinds of experimentation over the first few weeks. Will it hold out in the long term? Maybe. It seems very attention-intensive, but perhaps its no more attention-intensive than trying to keep up with your regular timeline as it is. Lauren Hockenson at GigaOm doesn’t feel like its prospects are good.

The limiting factor right now seems to be that it’s only on Tweetdeck, and given that it’s a drag-and-drop interface, it’s probably only for desktop Tweetdeck users. If the feature shows early success, though, I’m sure we’ll see methods for adding Tweets to your favorites filter out to the mobile platforms as well.

And yes, of course I’m experimenting with it too.