For a brief moment Thursday night, Twitter was lit on fire by those who love it most. An iOS update removed @-replies from reply threads and created confusing chains of tweets that left people ridiculing the social media platform.
Tweeters were mad over the change because @-replies generally limit the number of people who can see reply threads. That prevents your timeline from being overloaded with conversations you don't care about. It also allows you to cut someone out of a conversation when they don't want to be there. Thursday's temporary change made replies visible to all followers.
This change had been teased previously by Twitter when they announced @-replies would stop counting toward the 140-character limit. Though, it wasn't clear this was how the change was going to be implemented. However, a help center page reveals various tests have been publicly conducted on pending changes to the platform. That can cause some users to see unexpected things like people allowed to tweet more than 140 characters or what happened tonight.
Users were not into the change.
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From reports on Twitter, users who were experiencing the change had it reversed after a few hours of the confusing reply situation dominating timelines.
Twitter's support account tweeted that the change "accidentally went out to everyone on iOS briefly." They also helpfully noted they're listening to complaints.
While users on social media platforms are frequently resistant to major changes in the way they communicate, there are actually some good reasons to be frustrated by the change and pleased to hear Twitter is listening. If everyone can see replies it clogs the timeline and can also expose people attempting to have serious conversations about, say, politics, to trolls. At best, that makes it less enticing to engage. At the other end of the spectrum, it has the potential to increase exposure to harassment for some users.
Many have complained about Twitter needing to do something about harassment issues on the platform — and they have taken some steps — but exposing replies to everyone's main timeline may actually be a step in the opposite direction, as many noted Thursday night.
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