Twitter will test the use of Reddit-like upvote and downvote buttons as a way to better highlight the more interesting and relevant replies in a longer conversation thread. The company announced this afternoon it would begin what it’s calling a “small research experiment” that will add upvote and downvote buttons to replies, or even replace the “Like” button entirely. In some cases, the upvote and downvote buttons may be up arrows and down arrows, while in other cases they may be thumbs up and thumbs down buttons.
And in one group of testers, users may continue to see the “Like” button (the red heart) but will now find a downvote button alongside it. In this group, the upvote would count as a “Like,” Twitter said.
Twitter clarified to TechCrunch that only a small number of testers will see these options appear in their Twitter iOS app, and users’ votes will not become public.
The company also said it’s not currently using this vote information to rank the replies at this time. (If, however, such a system ever become a public feature, that could certainly change.)
The goal with the test is to help Twitter to learn what sort of replies users find most relevant during their conversations, which is something Twitter has studied for some time. According to Twitter user researcher Cody Elam, past studies determined that users believed replies that were informative, supportive, positive and funny were the “best” types of replies. However, some of the best replies wouldn’t surface quickly enough — an issue Twitter hopes to be able to address with an upvoting and downvoting feature.
Elam says the feature would allow users to privately voice their opinion on the replies’ quality without having to publicly shame other users. Over time, this data could help Twitter to improve its conversation ranking systems.
If Twitter were to act on this information to actually rank the replies, it could make it easier and more enjoyable to read longer Twitter threads — like those that follow viral tweets, for example. But it could also help to better showcase the replies that add something informative or interesting or even just funny to a conversation, while pushing any trolling remarks down the thread.
Today, Twitter allows users to manually hide the replies that detract from a conversation by placing them behind an extra click. Perhaps, in time, it could do something similar for replies that received too many downvotes, too — like Reddit does. But none of these types of features are being tested right now, to be clear.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has shown interest in other types of engagement buttons beyond the Like and Retweet. Earlier this year, for example, Twitter was spotted surveying users about their interest in a broader set of emoji-style reactions, similar to what you’d find on Facebook. That feature has since been put into development, it seems.
The same survey had also asked users how they felt about upvote and downvote buttons, in addition to emoji reactions.
Twitter says the test is rolling out now to a small group on iOS only.