Twitter tries 'magic' to keep users in the know

The feature builds on Twitter's experimental Magic Recs account

Didn't catch that tweet all your friends were talking about? Twitter wants you to see it next time, using a new feature that will notify you of tweets and contacts that Twitter thinks you'll want to know about.

Starting Tuesday, users of Twitter for the iPhone and Android devices will start getting push notifications when multiple people in their network follow the same user, or when they favorite or retweet the same tweet, Twitter senior software engineer Venu Satuluri announced in a blog post.

The feature could serve an important function as Twitter grows and its users' feeds get more saturated with content. The idea is that if enough of a person's contacts are interacting with a particular tweet, or following another contact, Twitter thinks that person will want to know about it.

It's an offshoot of an experimental Twitter account called Magic Recs, which had been used to send personalized recommendations to followers via direct messages. That account has more than 18,000 followers.

"We're bringing this functionality to more users," Satuluri said Tuesday, after Twitter made tweaks to the account's algorithms so that the most relevant updates are sent. Users who don't want to get the notifications can turn them off in their account settings.

Twitter didn't say how many of a person's contacts will need to flag a tweet or follow a contact before it gets brought to their attention. The notifications will get pushed to people's phones and appear on the lock screen.

Followers of Magic Recs will continue to get direct messages instead of notifications, Twitter said in a tweet. The company said it would continue to experiment with new features and different types of recommendations using the Magic Recs account.

Providing more personalized content to cut through the noise could become a goal for Twitter as the company scales out its service ahead of an initial public offering. Twitter announced earlier this month that it had filed plans for an IPO.

Twitter is also looking to bring more promotional content to the site, such as through its Amplify program, which allows television broadcasters to place video content into users' streams.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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