Those of you who are fans, or even mere users, of Twitter will have noticed in the last few days that they have changed how replies are dealt with. Now, rather than the handles of the people you are replying to being included in a tweet, they appear above it, like so:
Like many of their recent changes, such as not counting links or images in the character count, it is designed to increase the space available in the tweet for text and emojis. Also like many of their recent changes, it takes what should be a simple platform and makes it worse.
There are numerous problems with this, but I'm going to limit myself to three, ranging from the annoying to the potentially very serious.
First, the user interface on a desktop is now a total mess. By squeezing out the details of who is in each thread, it's not immediately clear who is responding to who and which tweets are replies to which threads. It's also a lot more effort to remove people from threads, as it's no longer a case of deleting their handle from the start of the tweet. You have to click the list of everyone in the conversation and then deselect each person individually if you want to take them out. For a platform that's meant to be about simple conversations, making things more difficult to understand for users isn't a great way to 'improve' your service. I'm genuinely beginning to wonder if anyone who works at Twitter actually uses it on a daily basis, as all their changes simple make the user experience worse.
Secondly, they've put a straightjacket on the ability to have promote conversations. As any serious Twitter user will know, if you put a '.' ahead of a handle, then that tweet becomes visible to your entire timeline, meaning everyone can see the debate/argument/disagreement/discussion you're having. It was a way of taking what was a 1v1 conversation and opening it up to a wider audience. But now, as handles aren't included, there is no way to promote a conversation between two people to the rest of your followers. This might sound like nothing, but given the reason for this change is to give people more space to communicate, simultaneously limiting who they can talk to seems counter-intuitive.
The third problem is much more significant, and isn't something that falls into the 'annoying as it is, you'll probably get used to it' box that the previous two do. The single worst thing about this change is that it makes abuse easier.
You see, now that handles don't count in replies you can tag up to 50 people in the same tweet. Fifty. So, if you're a troll looking to hurl sexual abuse at prominent women, you don't have to type the tweet dozens of times anymore. You can tag all of your victims at once and just send a single message. Or even worse, imagine a particular person is the target of an organised attack, as Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones was several months ago. A single user can now tag that person in a tweet with 49 trolls, who then can simply hit reply and add their chosen language to the cascade of abuse that the targets mentions will now be. As one of my followers put it earlier:
And just to remind everyone, this is a scenario that Twitter have actively created to give us a 'better experience.' A change that actively makes it easier to abuse people isn't something any platform should implement, especially one with a well recognised problem in that area.
So, just to summarise, this change has made the user experience worse, limited the ability of people to actually communicate on the platform and made abuse easier. All to implement a change that frees up a dozen characters. It's becoming increasingly clear that the platform is broken and those in charge have no idea how to fix it.