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Twitter’s Most Moronic Change: Removing @ Reply Settings

I’m furious. Absolutely astounded and ready to scream. Why? Because Twitter just announced a drastic change to their service that will forever affect how people interact with the stream. They have effectively removed all discoverability of new people to follow and connect with, thereby destroying the very element that made Twitter the powerful networking tool it has been for so many hundreds of thousands of people, myself included.

So what happened? Well today Twitter announced that due to some “confusions” they decided to completely the remove the @ reply settings and instead stick you with the very limiting default without any option to change it.

Previously Twitter settings looked like this:

By default for all users, the Replies setting was set to “Show me @ replies to the people I’m following,” meaning that any tweet prefaced with the username of someone you weren’t following would not appear in your stream. Some prefer this setting as a means to reduce the number of tweets in their stream, allowing them to only follow the conversations for which they follow both people involved. Makes sense that it’s an option, but it was never the one I had enabled.

Instead, when I first became a Twitter user almost a year and a half ago, I had selected the “Show all @ replies” setting, allowing me to discover new people whom the people I follow interact with. This is specifically how I’ve been able to grow my network to such an extent over a relatively short period of time. By learning who influences my influencers, I’ve been able to seek out more people who can have an influence on me — make new connections, learn things I might never have learned, discover crossover relationships I was never aware of.

The new design:

Now Twitter has decided to completely remove the @ replies setting and permanently filter out from the stream any @ replies to people you don’t follow. I think it’s asinine, and so do a lot of people I follow. Interestingly, you’ll also see that people are unaware of the change because they always had the default setting selected. Perhaps what Twitter really needed to do was to better educate users on the settings, NOT remove them entirely.

People’s reactions:





No, Twitter, this was NOT a “small” settings update. This was a major failure to understand a deep, longstanding value of your service. Start paying attention.

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  • Chad M

    Twitter says they have removed this behavior because it is “not desirable”. Users can decide if they desire it or not by turning it off if they don't like it. Please, listen to your users. It is clearly desirable.

  • http://natural-links.com Tonnie

    Twitter is about interaction with, and meeting new people, thats what made it big. Taking away a feature to just do that, breaks it.

    I’am not furious, i will just walk away and find another community site that will bring me what i want.

  • missmotorcade

    thanks, whitney – excellent post on an epic twitter #fail – like you, i use the @ replies to add new users to my stream and see how and why others are interacting with people i follow. this change makes absolutely no sense, and i hope that @ev, @biz and everyone else @ twitter get the memo and restore the original functionality.

    mike pratt: over under is five business days.

  • http://marksandpixels.com AJ Kandy

    It's definitely a desirable feature. But let's just say this — there are alternatives like identi.ca (run by Evan Prodromou of Wikitravel), itself based on the open-source Laconica. If the Twitter peeps don't restore the proper behaviour, at least as an 'expert user' setting, why don't we all just move en masse?

  • cchastain

    Twitters removal of open @replies is tantamount to a complete lack of faith AND a complete misunderstanding of their users. Get a clue @ev @biz.

  • kateblogs

    I hate it! It's completely removed the social aspect of Twitter. A significant number of the people I am following, I found because I could see other people's @replies. Plus, most of the people I interact with post more replies than updates, so I'm only seeing a fraction of their tweets, which makes Twitter very boring.

  • http://www.chrismurray.me.uk @Spidermint

    ok, I'm going to be cynical here (forget usage patterns, blah blah blah)

    Cutting out the @all at replies option will reduce twitters server load significantly!

    Now I am not familiar with the Twitter database structure but I know that cutting an option like the @all reply will significantly reduce the calls the servers need to make per tweet per second. From now on the servers don't have to cross check users account to see if they have this option selected. This would have been painful for the server load before, because regardless as to whether you had changed this option or not, the server scripts would still have to have checked it.

    With users on the increase and money coming in at a minimum as CEO I would certainly be looking for ways to keep the service up an running without buying another tower block of servers?

    Sorry for getting a lit bit geeky. Anyway, I'm sure providing the best service comes way before profit and loss margins. I mean who would have thought a company trying to make money would have any ulterior motives!? ;0)

  • @lorynx

    That's insane!!!

  • http://philbaumann.com philbaumann

    It's perhaps the dumbest thing Twitter's done.

    I'm wondering now: does @Twitter actually understand Twitter? Does the team “get” Twitter. Hard to believe; kinda ironic if true.

    If I were one of the VCs who invested in Twitter, I'd be holding a sit-down with the team.

  • http://www.orianmarx.com/ Orian Marx

    @spidermint that is exactly what I was thinking. Most likely the feature is “undesirable” from a technical standpoint and is simply being concealed as undesirable from a user feature standpoint. The alternative to cross checking would be to make all accounts receive all @ replies all the time, and perhaps leave it to clients like TweetDeck to filter locally if the user chooses. The problem with this is, given that the default option was to not view @ replies to people you don't follow, switching to “all @ replies all the time” might be a huge server-side burden in and of itself.

  • Todd Dietrich

    Saying that this was a bad idea would be a gross understatement. Twitter has severely reduced the effectiveness of their service by removing this feature.

  • http://www.jayfanelli.com Jay Fanelli

    Not to pimp my own Twitter feed, but apparently the chances of you ever seeing this tweet are now severely diminished:

    “If I wanted to only talk to people I already knew, I wouldn't need @Twitter in the first place. #fixreplies”

    http://twitter.com/jayfanelli/status/1784446028

  • http://inktales.wordpress.com Soo

    Nothing new to add, but you have my support! that was a great way to meet new people!

  • lwcavallucci

    Being able to see who my friends are talking to is the key to how I have developed such an incredible base of people who all add a great deal of worth to both my Twitter stream and to my life. This is an important feature. Please bring it back.

  • http://www.waltribeiro.net/ WaltRibeiro

    This is the dumbest thing. Ever. All your friends were strangers at one point – and to exclude strangers from meeting and connecting in the first place (just because they don't follow each other) it defeats everything that makes Twitter (and relationships) work.

  • ebuie

    This change was the first time I realized that this had an option, but it is something I had been wishing for for some time. Now that I know I used to have the option, I want it back.

    Dear Twitter, if an option is confusing, the solution is to redesign the interaction or explain the option better. Yanking it is not the answer.

  • http://www.orianmarx.com/ Orian Marx

    As it turns out, it *was* an engineering problem concealed as a UX problem. That's pretty lame but not surprising. @Spidermint and I were right on the mark:

    http://blog.twitter.com/2009/05/whoa-feedback.html
    http://blog.twitter.com/2009/05/we-learned-lot….

  • Pingback: If Twitter and #fixreplies is about confusion, it’s a design error. « synset & skrevet & laget

  • Victoria

    I just read this article about Twitter's change and thought you might be interested in it. http://lauraminer.com/post/107337770/now-we-can

    • ravm

      Nice post. Thanks for sharing, Victoria. What a great way to use this new feature!

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