Casey Newton has interviewed Twitter's Kevin Weil for The Verge, with a focus on Twitter's Project Lightning and their ongoing focus on rethinking the reverse chronological timeline.
Here's Weil on how Project Lightning will work initially:
One of the things we’ve talked about with Project Lightning is the idea of a temporary or an event-based follow. The idea is that as the VMAs conversation is playing out, in Project Lightning, you’re getting the best of this particular conversation. You’re seeing it curated live, so you can go and flip through it in a very immersive view of this conversation. You can also follow it, and when you follow the best tweets from that conversation or that event or that location or the game or whatever, it will be added to your home timeline as they happen. So it’s again breaking this notion of a purely reverse chronological home timeline where the tweets are only from the people you follow, and reimagining it to make it more about what’s happening now in your world that you care about.
The more I read about it, the more it seems like Project Lightning will be a bold step in reimagining the Twitter timeline for news, events, and topics. Twitter is amazing because it can keep you informed on anything that's going on, but right now it doesn't have proper tools for that. Search, trends, timeline tweet injections, and other tweaks always felt like halfhearted attempts that didn't want to risk too much. For that to change, a full-featured initiative is required, and Project Lightning is being described as a major change to the timeline concept.
I suspected this would be the case last year:
The Twitter timeline was built to be a reflection of a Following list people could build meticulously over time. But as it approches its ninth anniversary, Twitter has realized that curating a list of accounts isn’t most people’s forte, and they want to make sure that the timeline stays interesting even without investing time into finding accounts to follow. And that meant breaking the original concept of the timeline to include content and account suggestions. It meant to make the Twitter timeline a little more like Facebook.
This sounds like blasphemy to longtime Twitter users. And I completely understand: the idea of the timeline was a sacred one, especially for people who have invested hours over the years in following other people and trimming the uninteresting branches of their following lists.
And here's Weil today:
And for people like you and me, we’ve spent a lot of time curating who we follow, getting to exactly the right amount, the right set of people, the right set of content, and we follow, we unfollow, we curate. We’ve put a lot of time into it. But the next 500 million people who come to Twitter aren’t going to put the same amount of time that you and I have into making our Twitter timeline the best representation of what’s happening in our world right now. And that’s our guiding light for where the Twitter timeline goes.
With or without Jack, this is where Twitter wants to go.