This story is over 5 years old.


The New Twitter @-Replies Are Giving Me an Ulcer

Why does Twitter hate itself so much?

Twitter has rolled out its new @-replies to me about three or four times now, ambushing me with its unspeakable badness on the iPhone app or web Twitter. Today it rolled out for everyone and it makes me want to throw all my devices at a wall.

Does anyone at Twitter even use Twitter?

The new interface removes @-handles from tweets. This removes handles from the character length of the tweet, allowing you to add up to 50 handles in a thread. Worse, it makes it very, very difficult to untag people.


Tagging people in works exactly the way that it did before.

Tagging people out, however, means clicking on "Replying to @sarahjeong @emanuelmaiberg and FAR TOO MANY others."

From there, you have to manually uncheck everyone you want to untag.

There is no "Select all" or "Untag all" button.

I don't know why twitter canoes are capped at 50. I don't know why certain accounts are the first to get kicked out once the cap gets hit. I suspect it has something to do with whether or not the account has interacted with the thread, but I'm still not sure what the mechanism is.

The untagging mechanism is not intuitive. It is onerous. It is several clicks. It is a little hard to find. Thanks to Twitter, Inc.'s obsession with making me suffer, I have had to deal with multiple iterations of this UI change. Every time Twitter eventually changed it back, allowing my heartburn to subside and making it so I can tweet in peace once more.

I have been told that my feedback matters and that the previous rollouts to me were mistakes, rather than intentional and purposeful torment in violation of international humanitarian law. Twitter, what did I do to you to deserve this?

Did anyone ask for this? Did anyone respond well to this in testing? What are their names and where do they live?

This is awful. This is heinous. This is unusable garbage nonsense.

This is not the "Facebookification" of Twitter. This is not making Twitter easier for people who haven't used Twitter before.


When you reply to someone on Facebook, you have to hit the "Reply" button. It then nests the reply under the original post. It also nests the reply to the reply. But instead of nesting infinitely, by the third tier of replies, when you hit "Reply," it automatically fills in the person's linked name.

You can also tag them in manually by using the @ symbol.

Everyone on every tier of this conversation is automatically notified, but it's easy on Facebook for someone to dismiss notifications from a thread.

This system is sensible. This is reasonable. This is intuitive. This works for newbie users and advanced users alike. People who want more flexibility and fine-tuning can get it. People who don't know what they're doing are less likely to mess it up.

Twitter's new feature does the opposite.

The previous @-handle functionality provided a great deal of flexibility and nuance if you understood unspoken Twitter protocols. For example, if I tweeted, ".@jack This sucks," it's clear I want the entire world to know that I am mad at Jack Dorsey, Twitter's CEO.

Of course, this little quirk of Twitter was always opaque to new users. Twitter has since changed the way it works so that when you start a tweet off with an @-handle, it displays to the world without you having to drop a period in front of it. But all the subsequent replies are hidden, unless the audience follows both parties.

But what if you wanted to break a tweet out of a conversation and display it to the world? Previously, you could just drop a period in front and blow the whistle on the hidden canoe. It was a shortcut. Kind of a rude one, but it was functional. It worked. It was a fast and easy way to achieve a certain kind of communication.


Furthermore, you could rearrange handles inside a canoe to better indicate intent. For example, I might start a tweet off like "@POTUS Why won't you pardon @Snowden for exposing @NSAgov surveillance?" If I replied to my own tweet, the handles would be automatically ordered the way that I put them: @POTUS, @Snowden, @NSAgov.

By changing the order, you can change meaning.

"@POTUS you were right @Snowden @NSAgov" means something entirely different from "@Snowden you were right @POTUS @NSAgov."

The UI now destroys a level of nuance that was previously possible, making it highly ambiguous who you are replying to—and in fact, hiding from you all the people you ARE replying to! You might be tagging in your worst enemy without realizing it!

But here's the part that really has me steamed. The @-handle is one of Twitter's most recognizable brands, a kind of trademark if you will. When people identify their Twitter handles outside of Twitter, they precede it with a @. You don't have to add, "I'm @sarahjeong on Twitter," or "Twitter: @sarahjeong." You could, but you don't have to. A Twitter user can see that, and automatically know it's a Twitter handle.

Not so with Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. There is no single-character text shortcut to indicate that a string is a handle on one of those social networks.

Sure, @-handles aren't intuitive and aren't invisible, the way a "Reply" button is. But sometimes that's what you want. Sometimes what you really want is for an odd quirk of your system to be so pervasive in society that people just start picking it up. Think, for instance, the incredibly silly "WWW." that used to come before every URL.

It's not necessary anymore—in fact, showing full URLs in browsers isn't entirely necessary anymore, as evidenced by how mobile browsers display to users—but people nonetheless understand what a WWW is and know what a .com is as well. These things have entered the common parlance. They get turned into jokes and references. Even as URLs become hidden from mobile browser UIs, we still refer to "Twitter dot com."

By hiding the @s, Twitter is diluting its own damn brand, and undermining itself. The @ handle could very easily become common parlance the way "dot com" is. But not if it's hidden on the very service that spawned it.

Also, this new UI sucks and makes me want to punch a bear until it bites off my hands and makes it so I can't tweet anymore anyways.

Why does Twitter hate us? Why does Twitter hate America? Why does Twitter hate itself?