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The Unintended Consequences of Twitter’s New Changes

Twitter is implementing a number of changes to make the service more usable for people who aren’t intimately familiar with its arcane vocabulary, but not all of these changes have been greeted happily.

by Nicholas Deleon
May 24 2016, 4:30pm
Tweet! Image: Wonderferret/Flickr

Call it a work-around.

Twitter on Tuesday said it would no longer count @names, photos, videos, GIFs, and polls against a tweet's 140 character limit, confirming reports that had been floating around the tech blogosphere for the past few weeks. "More room for more words," senior product manager Todd Sherman said in a triumphant blog post, noting that users would no longer have to worry whether or not including The Perfect GIF would a tweet too big to send.

"We shouldn't make you think about Twitter," CEO Jack Dorsey told the New York Times, arguing that people should primarily be concerned about the content of their tweets and less about figuring out how to cram their thoughts into 140 characters.

That's smart, of course, given Twitter's famous struggles to attract new users (though last quarter was a bright spot), but some of the other announced tweaks have drawn their fair share of jeers.

One tweak makes it so that any tweet you send will be visible to all of your followers. Before, if I sent a tweet to, say, a potential source for a story, I could send a tweet like "@JaneDoe, can I get your email address? Have a question for you!" then that would only be visible to people who followed both me and Doe. Now, someone who follows me but who doesn't also follow Doe will see that tweet in their timeline, too.

End of the world? Perhaps not, but some people have already expressed privacy concerns: How public is too public? Not everyone has open DMs (meaning they accept direct messages from anyone and everyone, including non-followers), so this change eliminates a handy method of semi-privately reaching out to someone on Twitter.

Another potential mishap: "Twitter canoes," those unwieldy tweets that have more than three @names in the tweet, can now have as many as 50 @names per tweet, Twitter told told The Telegraph. How many people can fit in a canoe before it sinks? Guess we'll find out.

Twitter is also giving users the ability to retweet themselves, which Twitter says will be a handy way for you to resurface your old ideas. Before, if you wanted to resurface an old tweet you would have had to quote that tweet—an inelegant solution when all you wanted to do was digitally pat yourself on the back.