[Update: it’s live as of 8/31/20] Twitter wants to make it easier to see the conversations taking place around a tweet. This May, the company rolled out a change to its user interface that allowed users who clicked on the “Retweets” metric beneath a tweet to view both those Retweets with comments and those without all on one screen. But a new feature may soon make even more visible to the end user those retweets where discussions are happening. Twitter confirmed it’s experimenting with a new “Quotes” count on tweets. This engagement metric would sit alongside the tweet’s existing retweets and likes counts, which today appear beneath the tweet itself.
The feature has already shown up for some subset of Twitter users in recent days, where it has received mixed reviews. Some applauded the addition for helping to separate quotes from standard retweets, while others claimed the placement of the new metric was confusing because they’re used to seeing the Like count on the far right.
Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that what users are seeing now is still considered a test. In addition, the company isn’t yet set on using the word “Quotes” for the new feature, either. It’s also trying out language like “Quote Tweets,” they said.
“A few months ago, we made Retweets with Comments more visible when you tap to see Retweets on a Tweet so everyone could see the entire conversation,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch. “This is available to everyone. Now, we’re testing making Retweets with Comments accessible directly on the Tweet and new language — Quotes, Quote Tweets — to see if this makes them easier to access and more understandable,” they added.
Breaking out “Quotes” into its own section would make sense, given that referencing the Retweet count as “Retweets and comments” is a bit wordy.
In addition, the feature plays hand-in-hand with another recent change to the Twitter user interface. As of this month, Twitter now lets everyone limit direct replies to tweets, if desired. That means some tweets on the platform won’t be open for public conversations in the traditional sense, where people can respond directly to the poster.
Instead, Twitter users can now choose to limit replies to just the people they follow or only those mentioned in a tweet. However, these tweets with limited replies can still be engaged with in other ways — including by retweeting them or by retweeting the tweet with a comment. That will take the resulting conversation to a different part of Twitter’s network, where it can then be discussed among other users. The only way to truly limit the audience for a tweet is to run a private Twitter account, which few choose to do.
Twitter’s confirmed tests with “Quotes” indicate the feature is moving forward with development.
Before the feature entered public testing, it had been discovered by reverse-engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who often finds new features within an app’s code before they go live.
Twitter is always experimenting with interface changes in the hope of enabling better conversations. But fundamentally, its concept of an “online town square” may be at fault for the chaos and unhealthy engagement that can take place on its platform. Its users’ worldviews are too divergent and internet culture itself is too intertwined with trolling to make any social media platform a place for thoughtful discourse.
Update, 8/31/20: Twitter has officially announced the feature.