Less than 24 hours after making a major change to the way that Twitter works, the company has reversed the change and thanked users for "helping us discover what's important!" The new new policy may be just as confusing as the old new policy, but we offer a chart below explaining just how this all works. (Update: See below, this may actually not be a substantive reversal.)
This is no small matter - this is a fast unfolding story about the technical and social texture of the real-time social graph. To read our original coverage of the issue, and why it's a big deal, see our post Twitter Puts a Muzzle on Your Friends: Goodbye People I Never Knew. For our speculation on the technical and social rational behind the change, see our post from this morning, Is This Why Twitter Changed Its Replies Policy? For a chart explaining it all with arrows and a picture of a drunk bird, see below.
From Biz Stone's most recent update to the Twitter blog:
"First, we're making a change such that any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account. This will bring back some serendipity and discovery and we can do this very soon."
By that he means that you'll see the tweet if you were following the account that sent it, not that you're required to be following the account it was directed to. That's the difference between the original way Twitter has worked for years and yesterday's change. There's no mention that all but a small number of people have in recent months failed to opt-out of the relatively recent default of not seeing replies to strangers. Now apparently everyone's Twitter experience will reflect the way some early adopters preferred it. Except, for now, in cases where a message was originated from pushing a reply button. (That part deserves a #wtf?) Can we all please stop and breath for a minute? Update: Upon further reflection and conversation, we have to question just how much has been reversed. Presumably most replies are originated by pushing the reply button, so if those ones remain invisible - then most conversation between your friends and strangers will remain invisible to you. Problem unsolved! Add to that the fact that when you start a message in the web interface with an @username - the "post" button gets AJAX transformed into a "reply" button! The message you post does not appear to get marked up "in reply to" however. Oh, for the simpler days of being a Twitter user - like yesterday morning.
What does the future look like? (Who knows! Really!) Here's Stone again:
"Second, we've started designing a new feature which will give folks far more control over what they see from the accounts they follow. This will be a per-user setting and it will take a bit longer to put together but not too long and we're already working on it."
We look forward to seeing what Twitter can come up with. That sounds good though. Wow.
Update: It's a Twitter world so replies come fast and furious. Our take aways in the minutes after this announcement -
great job being responsive Twitter, that replies button caveat sounds nasty and individual settings sounds great as long as one of those options is full access to my own social graph (like friends of friends). This aint Facebook we're talking about here. Viva Twitter! You can defeat the frienemy Kutcher hordes and find a way to scale awesomeness!