Surprise, surprise. Last night Twitter abruptly decided to disable an option in the way @replies worked. The feature, while not widely used, was very popular among so-called ‘power users’ because it helped expose them to new users and conversations. Users have been up in arms since the change, venting their complaints in the highly trending channel #fixreplies. It’s been a disaster.
At the time of the change co-founder Biz Stone wrote an oddly condescending blog post, stating that the feature was an “undesirable and confusing option” which was exactly why they took it away. This didn’t make much sense given the fact that the option was nestled in the settings menu and wasn’t the default. Most people didn’t even know it was there.
This morning in a new blog post titled Whoa Feedback, Stone has revealed the true reason behind the change: it’s an engineering problem. Stone writes “The engineering team reminded me that there were serious technical reasons why that setting had to go or be entirely rebuilt—it wouldn’t have lasted long even if we thought it was the best thing ever.”
This is a PR failure on Twitter’s part. The company was totally misleading about their motivation for killing the option, and now they’re forced to fess up because they’d have a tough time re-enabling it. Granted, most people don’t use the feature, and it is confusing. But those are merely supporting arguments – the company could have easily tucked the feature away in a set of advanced options for power users.