Twitter Inc. (TWTR) released a major update yesterday that builds on changes the company made earlier.
The social media company continues to try and increase the character count allowed per tweet and the latest update removes usernames from the text of replies. This gives users more characters to express themselves and makes conversations more readable by removing clutter.
Twitter has struggled to really establish itself as a platform people can socialize on rather than a place to follow influencers. This move is an attempt to build a sense of community and promote interaction on the website. In September, Twitter made it so that photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets did not count toward the 140-character limit. (See also: FT Asks: Does Twitter-Square Merger Make Sense?)
The update is also a removal of something that has become a social media hallmark. As TechCrunch reported, "The change to replies marks an end of an era for Twitter. The company helped to popularize this format and bring it into the mainstream. Today, using the “@” symbol to mention someone is supported across a range of services, including Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Slack, and even Outlook, among others."
Since Twitter says the latest changes made to its platform were based on research, experimentation and feedback, the mixed response is probably not what it expected. The company struggles with a bullying problem, but in an interesting twist it seems the company itself is the victim this time around. The replies to CEO Jack Dorsey's tweet announcing the change are enough to make anyone want to go to bed for a week. (See also: Twitter Considers Paid Subscription Service)
The main problem, pointed out by websites like Gizmodo, Vox, and LifeHacker, is that users can now add as many people to a conversation as they like setting up the possibility of receiving non-stop notifications for a thread you aren't interested in. (LifeHacker says technically the limit is 50.) The solution to this is muting the conversation.
But for a platform that is criticized for being too complicated to use, a revamp that confuses your regular users is not good. Tech website The Verge wrote, "For the class of power users that sees Twitter as a 24/7 water cooler, expect this design to land with a thud."
Excited for the Twitter change. The platform's biggest problem is that I had too good an idea of what was going on.
— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) March 31, 2017