The End of Pull-To-Refresh

Loren Brichter integrated the scroll and refresh events into one single action, and so pull-to-refresh was born. At the time, pull-to-refresh was regarded as an innovation, but has it lost its purpose? and worse, has it inadvertently produced a nasty side-effect that could change Twitter forever?

Personally, I never quite liked pull-to-refresh. It makes me feel uneasy. Just look at the top of this post, a tension is created. A slot machine of sorts, will I or won’t I have something to look at? or worse, feel good about. “Loading…” Just one more second. It silly to me that we ever used it, but more so that we continue to – especially given the efficiency of instant messaging. There’s a reason why we don’t pull-to-refresh in WhatsApp or iMessage.

Twitter recently made a change to the feed algorithm which now injects related Tweets into your main feed. Tweets that people you follow favorite are now frequently promoted into your main feed. This version of Twitter feels less like Twitter and more like Facebook. It no longer feels real-time, and here is how it comes full-circle back to pull-to-refresh. I asked Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, why they made these changes to the feed and here is his explanation:

You’re solving the wrong problem Dick. Just remove the request by removing the pull-to-refresh action. One can assume here that Twitter saw a lot of data which indicated people were refreshing their feeds, only to be disappointed with no new Tweets. So, rather than fixing the problem by removing pull-to-refresh, they are giving us a bunch of random Tweets to justify the refresh.

This is a classic case of treating the symptom, rather than the cause, which is a common mistake many design teams make. I feel it’s time we retire pull-to-refresh, so we can get on with the real business of using Twitter, and not its nostalgic interface.

I’m on Twitter.