Zurich-based designer Florian Schulz has reimagined Twitter not as a mind-numbing torrent of breaking news, gifs, and nazis, but as something else he calls a “social network.” We’re not too sure about this “social network” idea, but the results are pretty intriguing, at least in an experimental way.
Services like Facebook and Twitter show you stuff based on newness, relevance, and popularity. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but there are side effects. Twitter, for example, is a good news source, but the bottomless timeline rewards the most active users and heated tweets. Everything else gets buried. Twitter has turned to algorithms to spotlight tweets it thinks you’ll care about, but Schulz’s experiment takes a completely different approach, and ultimately makes Twitter more about the people you follow than the GIFs they retweet. In a way, it’s more “social,” ya know? You can try it here.
Like an alternate universe, Schulz’s web app hides everything but the accounts you follow, ordered by reverse-newness. There are no retweets or ads. You pick a timeframe for your “Inbox” of tweets by tapping or clicking the clock icon on the top left of your screen, and the service will show you accounts based on whoever’s most recent tweet is the oldest. When you click on a user, you’ll see their most recent tweet.
Schulz explains: “Someone who tweeted a month ago is shown first, someone who just tweeted, all the way down at the bottom. In my case this revealed a few people who last tweeted 7 years ago.”
But, like, why? Here’s Schulz on this (emphasis ours):
You might think that this design would make you want to look at every single person’s recent tweet in order not to miss anything. Or to scroll to the bottom to see the most recent news. If you follow hundreds or thousands of people, yes, that would be a lot of work. But here’s the thing: by hiding distracting content and focusing on people, this design doesn’t entice you to look at everything and instead encourages you to choose consciously.
In my timeline on the service, choosing to see tweets from “All Time” was like a splash of cold water—a collection of people I’ve lost touch with, deserted accounts, and old usernames I registered years ago and have abandoned. But selecting something more sensible like “Today” or “Yesterday” did something interesting: It bumped less-active, but still recently-active, accounts to the top of my list.
You may not find this experimental service efficient or enthralling, especially if you’re a news addict. But it’s not a bad way to catch up on tweets you’ve missed and it makes Twitter feel a hell of a lot calmer—if not a little bit timeless. That’s quite a feat. Twitter wasn’t designed to work this way, and that’s kind of the point.