Twitter’s Thin Blue Line Is Already Wavering: A Sign Of More Changes To Conversation Threads To Come?

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It was only a week ago that Twitter updated its web, Android and iOS versions with a new feature — a blue line — that changed how Twitter presented you with conversations around tweets from people you follow. Designed to “make it easier to discover and follow conversations” on the chatty service, it got a lot of early negative feedback that hasn’t abated for making the experience cluttered, noisy and confusing.

But now, many users are reporting that the blue line is no longer appearing, once again replaced by the old “View conversation” link.

In other words, this:

conversation

Now takes you to this:

blue line gone

Replacing conversations that Twitter had changed to look like this:

blue line conversation

But before you blue line haters out there get too excited, remember that Twitter —  taking a page from Facebook’s longtime mantra to “move fast and break things” — appears to be in the middle of a lot of A/B testing, throwing out different things to see what sticks and what does not. In fact, I and a number of other users over the past couple of days saw the blue line disappear already to get replaced by a new link, “in reply to” at the top of a tweet, and while I was writing this post, I came across this. In other words, this is probably not permanent.

I’ve reached out to Twitter for a comment on this; in the past, spokespeople have pointed me to the company’s own announcement of “innovation through experimentation” to flag how Twitter would in future do live tests of different tweaks.

Indeed, you could say that the Flock is in flux right now. Given all the (unconfirmed) reports that have swirled around about the company moving closer to an IPO, it’s not surprising to see the uptick in activity. That has included other tests to make “discovering” tweets easier; full-on, new feature rollouts; and some new exec appointments.

Matthew wrote about how the new conversation view was one way for Twitter to “humanize” the service, but I’d argue that these changes are just as much about Twitter trying to figure out what works best for it as a business, as they are about looking to improve the experience for users. Example: others have pointed out a potentially more commercial intent for them blue lines:

gaming conversations on twitter?

Of course, if too many users (but not all!) seem to almost universally dislike a new feature — or believe the backlash will eventually calm down — there’s no point in pushing ahead with it. At the very least, there is a need to rethink how it’s done. With a business like Twitter, which has been built with dynamism and social interaction as part of its DNA, that balance between user happiness and making money is perhaps particularly acute.

Photo: Flickr