If you’ve been using Twitter for the past few days, you may have noticed an interesting trend.
Some tweets are showing up on your timeline from people who haven’t retweeted them. In fact, all they did was hit that little star button, favoriting them instead. So why are they in your feed if they weren’t retweeted?
The practice is just another example of sites testing new features with small audiences before either rolling them out to more people or scrapping the plan. The most common example of site experiments run on users is “A/B testing,” where a site will present two slightly altered versions of itself to different users.
In 2012, Twitter purchased A/B testing startup Clutch.io for its testing intellectual property. Clutch.io and other A/B testing services are incredibly useful for user insight. For example, two users could see two different screens, one that says “Sign Up” and one that says “Try For Free,” and Twitter could see which is more effective.
So what does that mean for your Twitter activity? Well, since this is a case of isolated testing, probably nothing. With the negative reception Twitter’s favorites experiment is receiving, chances are it won’t go on for much longer. In fact, you probably haven’t even noticed it unless you’re really paying attention.
But if the rollout of favorites in timelines continues, it could definitely hamper what you choose to enjoy on Twitter. For example, if you favorite tweets from your raunchy cousin who talks about his weekend escapade, those could show up on your boss’ timeline, and merit either a conversation on your online activity, or worse.
Favorites are used for multiple reasons, whether for acknowledging that you saw something, saving a link for later, or expressing joy at a particular tweet. Turning favorites into retweets dilutes their usefulness and puts them in a place they don’t belong: other people’s timelines.