One app that has stayed on my iPhone since 2009 has been the various permutations of Twitter for iPhone.
Even though I've long switched to Tweetbot, I still like to check in from time to time to see how it's development has progressed. After all, it seems increasingly possible that the official app is the true future of the website.
Twitter released version 5.3 of its app for the iPhone today. It brings some improvements to the overall experience of the app. First, links in the timeline are now tappable, so you don't have to go to the tweet detail page and click the link from there. The Discover tab -- which acts as a digest of stories, images and videos -- has a new coat of paint. I'd still like to see some improvement in how the app displays the activity stream, which cuts off basically every tweet, making it difficult to browse:
But on the whole, Twitter has rectified a whole host of issues with this update. But it introduced a new one.
Search is broken
Right next to the compose button in Twitter 5.3 is a search icon. This is a welcome change: easier access to search was necessary as it had been tucked away in the Discover tab in previous versions of the app.
In a post today on the Twitter Engineering blog by Youngin Shin, he writes that it's "a major shift from how we have previously partitioned results by type."
Now, when you search for a term, Twitter's back end does not just simply return the most recent tweets, a few top tweets and maybe a sponsored tweet. Instead, it returns any related users, and tweets by people you follow (or the people they follow).
To get a real time sense of what's going on, you'd have to pull to refresh on the search and even then it only shows up to the last 20 minutes or so of tweets.
Here's what happens when I first search for MBTA -- something I'd do if I wanted to check to see if anyone was tweeting about delays:
Then, if you pull to refresh the view, it shows this:
There's no apparent way to go back in time to see older tweets. If you're trying to follow a story about an MBTA robbery that's 20 minutes old when you make the search, there's a good chance you're out of luck.
This is a huge disappointment. The intention is well and good: provide relevant results to what people are searching for. However, what amounts to hiding access to a near real-time stream is pretty devastating.