Twitter Plans Changes To @Replies And Other Confusing Rules

Twitter can be an incredibly confusing service for new and existing users, and Twitter says it’s now planning to address some rules that might make it unwieldy.

In the company’s letter to shareholders, Twitter said that changes were coming to rules like the @reply and the .@name syntax. We don’t know what that looks like just yet, but that the company plans to address that seems significant and in-line with what the company has tried to do lately — make the service less confusing and more palatable to more casual and new users.

“We have some really weird rules around conversations, around replies and .@name format that no one understands. We need to fix that,” CEO Jack Dorsey said on the earnings call. “We are focusing a lot of our energy on refining the core product and looking at what is confusing about the service.”

Here’s what it says in the shareholder letter:

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.45.21 PM

This, in theory, will at least address the “Twitter Canoe” problem — as more and more people pile into a conversation, their @reply handles take up characters so each person’s reply has be shorter and shorter until it’s basically impossible to convey complex thought.

Many think that @names shouldn’t take up character counts in replies. If Twitter made this change, people would always have 140 characters to use in their discussion no matter how many people are part of the thread.

Twitter Canoe

As more people join an @ reply thread, their handles take up more of the 140 character limit until people can only add tiny responses

Similarly, it’s common to see less-savvy Twitter users accidentally start tweets with someone’s @name. This makes the tweet a reply that only shows up to their mutual followers with the people they mentioned. Users have to know to put a . or different character other than @ at the beginning of their tweet to make sure it goes out to all their followers. Twitter could give some obvious visual indication to people about whether they’re about to publish a tweet or a reply.

Twitter reported its fourth-quarter earnings today where user growth was flat, and excluding SMS fast followers user growth, core Twitter actually fell. That means Twitter has to do whatever it can to make it easier for new users to understand so it can revitalize growth.

Here’s a video rant about why small changes like these won’t fix Twitter’s problem