Twitter has a growth problem. And here’s why: for many new users, it’s simply too confusing. And that’s a problem they need to resolve, and soon. But is changing its core and iconic functionality really the answer?
Speaking at the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange conference in Denver recently, Twitter’s head of news Vivian Schiller said: “We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background. There’s a lot of creative thinking going on around how to make Twitter more and more intuitive. Watch this space.”
So what does that mean? Well, for one, Twitter has been testing changes to the way that @ replies work on the network – and, if implemented, for veteran users it’s not going to be very popular.
BuzzFeed has the scoop, noting that in her speech Schiller referred to Twitter’s reply system and its iconic hashtags as “arcane”. Accordingly, Twitter has been trying out new way of managing replies in its Android app, which removes the @username part from the reply. See the screenshot below, which compares the iOS version of Twitter’s app with the Android alpha test group version – note the difference in how the reply is shown below the BuzzFeed tweet.
No word yet on what Twitter might do with hashtags, but they could incorporate a more “live” approach to these and @ replies, much like how these features work on Facebook.
Twitter, of course, has made big changes to core functionality in the past, with the biggest example being its remodelling of the retweet feature. But folks don’t really like change, and unless it’s really, really good change they easily get the hump. And, you know, leave. So unless Twitter really nails this there’s every chance any tweaks they make to add more users might actually have a negative impact on their core audience. And, being frank, it’s keeping people interested in Twitter that’s been their real problem all along – not getting them to sign up. And I’m not convinced that a slightly slicker reply system is really the solution to that.
(Twitter mobile image via Shutterstock.)