Today: Twitter lights up on concerns about a major change, but that change is unlikely to occur. Also: Apple falls again amid more iRumors.
The Lead: Calm down, Twitter isn't radically changing any time soon
Twitter lit up Thursday with anger from hard-core users of the social-networking service after a blog post's sensationalized headline claimed the company's core offering would undergo a big change, but the fears seemed unfounded.
Twitter Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto discussed potential changes to Twitter's product Wednesday evening at a New York event, noting that the current core Twitter experience of tweets from accounts the user follows appearing in raw, chronological order "isn't the most relevant experience," and mentioning the need to surface timely tweets for users who do not open the app as often.
GigaOM blogger Mathew Ingram published a piece cherry-picking some of these comments Thursday morning and titled it, "Twitter CFO says a Facebook-style filtered feed is coming, whether you like it or not," causing an uproar among power users of the service who fear that Twitter will eventually do away with its raw feed.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo lashed back Thursday morning, tweeting at the author, "Goodness, what an absurd synthesis of what was said." A Twitter spokesman deferred to that tweet upon request for an official response from the company.
The blog post and the headline left out the context that Noto was discussing Twitter's search function when making most of the comments, as well as an important quote from the Wall Street Journal article it used as source material.
"Individual users are not going to wake up one day and find their timeline completely ranked by an algorithm," Twitter's top financial executive said.
Twitter knows it needs to offer a differentiated product to lure and retain new users, who will likely find curated feeds -- such as Facebook's timeline -- more useful.
"(Power) users are a minority of Twitter's current user base, and if the company is to grow from 271 million (users) to Facebook or Google scale at over a billion, the new users it needs to gain look a lot more like the rest of Twitter's current user base than its power users," analyst Jan Dawson wrote last month in arguing that Twitter needed to offer users a more curated product that doesn't require as much work to create a useful social network.
In fact, Twitter has recent proof that such an effort can pay off. When the company made a big effort to offer a World Cup product that allowed easy entry for new users by automatically grouping tweets on the soccer tournament from established users with scores, highlights and other info, it posted its largest gain in users in more than a year. Twitter obviously learned from that experience and is looking to make event-based curation a big part of its future, announcing Thursday that it would undertake a similar effort with the NFL this year, grouping tweets by that topic as well as for individual games.
None of those changes would equate to Twitter completely foregoing the raw, chronological feed of tweets for users who wish to receive that service, however, as those users also discovered during the World Cup. Even Facebook, used as the evil end possibility in Ingram's headline for aggressively curating users' timelines, offers a raw feed of friends' activity on its homepage as well as an option to view its timeline in chronological order.
"In short, Twitter can continue to tinker with its timeline in subtle, incremental ways without ever losing its underlying reverse-chronological structure," Will Oremus wrote at Slate.
Twitter could easily enable users to turn off algorithms or never choose to turn them on, and Jackdaw Research's Dawson suggested Thursday that Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck could be a vehicle for such usage. Twitter's relationship with third-party clients may be strained though, after picture-hosting service TwitPic announced Thursday it will shut down after a confrontation with the company.
User outrage didn't hurt Twitter on Wall Street, as the company's stock improved 1.8 percent to $50.24 Thursday.
SV150 market report: Apple falls again, Google settles with FTC
Twitter's gains couldn't push Wall Street to an overall improvement Thursday, as another decline from Apple helped push indexes down.
After the word's most valuable company's record-breaking ride came to an end Wednesday, its stock dipped again Thursday, losing 0.8 percent to $98.12. Apple was hit by a complaint from an activist group that one of its Chinese suppliers was forcing excess overtime on workers and refusing to pay some of them among other offenses, dredging up memories of past scandals in Apple's Asian supply chain. Still, most eyes remained riveted on rumors about Apple's next round of gadgets, which are expected to debut at a Sept. 9 event in Cupertino. The Wall Street Journal reported that the smartwatch it expects Apple to introduce will include technology that allows it to be used in mobile payments, along with offering a curved screen. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would surprise onlookers with a new iPad Air, despite Apple's recent habit of introducing new iPads at an October event after the September iPhone event.
Google gained 0.6 percent to $593.14 after settling claims about kids' in-app purchases with a $19 million refound, and the Mountain View search company officially lost an executive who is moving on to the top tech job in the country. Nvidia increased 1.8 percent to $20.03, then the Santa Clara company announced after the bell that it has sued Samsung and Qualcomm for patent infringement. Cisco dropped 0.5 percent to $24.91 after showing off new server offerings, and Hewlett-Packard declined 1.1 percent to $37.66 after court records showed it tried to back out of its Autonomy acquisition. Netflix fell 1 percent to $472.67 after temporarily dropping "Sesame Street" from its streaming service, and SolarCity jumped 4.8 percent to $70.95 after announcing an expansion.
Up: SolarCity, Twitter, Nvidia, Tesla, Zynga, LinkedIn, Intel, Yahoo
Down: GoPro, Pandora, Gilead, VMware, Yelp, Applied Materials, SunPower, EA
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Down 6.58, or 0.41 percent, to 1,612.66
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 10.28, or 0.22 percent, to 4,562.29
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 8.7, or 0.05 percent, to 17,069.58
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 3.07, or 0.15 percent, to 1,997.65