#Beyond140 is coming to fruition with the removal of one of the most annoying laws of Twitter. Some iOS users are now part of a test group that no longer sees a recipients’ usernames appear or count against the 140 character limit when they post replies. This leaves more room for actual discussion.
It also prevents the dreaded “Twitter Canoe”, where more and more users join a reply thread until there’s hardly any characters left to use and the conversation breaks down.
A Twitter spokesperson confirms to TechCrunch that this is a test appearing to a subset of users, referring to a Twitter Help article saying it would eventually start showing these to users. Now the tests are live with actual users, and it will roll out to everyone eventually in some form, though Twitter wouldn’t say when.
Twitter announced in May that the change would eventually come through. It’s already implemented some of the other #Beyond140 updates, including the ability to retweet yourself and media attachments like photos not counting against the character limit.
Yet at the time of the announcement, Twitter merely said the usernames wouldn’t count — not that they wouldn’t appear. For long-time Twitter users, this represents the end of an era. The @ reply was a hallmark of Twitter communication and was replicated on many platforms, including Slack.
With the change its testing, replies start with an empty text box, with just a little “In reply to Josh Constine and others” in grey text up above with the “others” linked. This could confuse some users into thinking they’re composing a tweet, not a reply. Tapping on the “others” link in the grey text reveals who you’re replying to in case you forgot, and lets you add and remove recipients.
It’s a pivotal moment for Twitter. After starting to accept acquisition bids, many potential buyers like Google and Disney reportedly pulled out. Tomorrow it will announce its quarterly earnings, but moved the earnings release from the traditional 4pm Pacific to 4am Pacific when many reporters might be asleep. This could potentially limit or at least delay negative press if the earnings are weak.
While Twitter’s product has tons of loyal, hardcore users amongst its 313 million monthly actives, the company behind it has been mired with leadership, growth, and revenue struggles. Simplifying replies and catalyzing deeper discussions on the platform could make it more accessible to new users and more essential to long-time tweeters.