Twitter: We Need An Edit Window For Tweets, And We Need It Now

Many moons ago, way back in the early days of Twittercism, I proposed several features that I think the service desperately needed, one of which was an ‘edit window’ for tweets. I mentioned this a second time in May.

I’m gonna suggest it again: Twitter needs an edit window for tweets.

Thirty seconds, that’s all I’m asking for. A thirty-second window that starts immediately after you submit a tweet that allows you to edit and then re-publish. Once the thirty seconds has passed, that’s it – no more edit for you. This prevents abuse, but also gives users the facility to correct bad links, edit stupid typos, and all that other ghastly stuff that arises just because you hit the enter key by mistake. It’s common courtesy.

As it is now, if you send a ‘bad tweet’ out into your stream, the best thing you can do is to immediately delete it, and then do it over. The problem is that, as we are all now aware, you cannot actually delete a tweet on Twitter. It stays ‘out there’ forever. Sure, it’s not in your timeline anymore, but that’s just an illusion. Bad tweets never die. Here’s a recent example of one of mine. If you click on the first of my two George Tiller tweets, you’ll see that Twitter tells you it doesn’t exist. But as you can see from the search, it does.

Couple this with the realisation that anyone active on Twitter is going to see your bad tweet before you have a chance to delete and re-submit it, and you have a ‘system’ that is, at best, a farce.

A thirty-second edit window would rectify this problem and keep everybody happy. Remember the issue Jonathan Ross had when he foolishly publicised his email address on Twitter, and then found to his chagrin he couldn’t erase it? With an edit feature, that would have been a lot less of an issue.

Every other social network I know of allows you to delete and/or edit your updates. You can do it on Friendfeed. You can do it on Facebook. They let you delete messages permanently, too. Why not Twitter?

At the very least, I’d like to see Twitter adopt Google’s policy in Gmail and give as an undo button that would pop up as an icon when you submit a tweet. We probably don’t need more than ten seconds to realise we’ve made a hideous mistake – after that, the undo icon could vanish. This would obviously mean a ten-second delay before a submitted tweet hit the stream, but who really cares about that? If it affected us all, it would still seem as real time as does now. (And of course if you’re using any kind of external client for Twitter, you’re dealing with API delays as it is.)

I’m sure this stuff is already available to Twitter’s support team, so it’s likely a fairly easy transition. I’d prefer an edit, but I’ll settle for an undo. Whatever: we need one or the other, and we need it now.