Is Twitter trying to kill off the RT?
To me, ‘retweeting’ something on Twitter that another user has posted is one of the most important functions of the social networking site.
RT @username quickly became a convention for Twitter’s early adopters to do this, and many even added the << symbols at the end to divide a comment from the original post. In fact, reducing the length of the message without distorting it in order to RT has become a bit of an art form. So 120 became the new 140 – and despite talking in the past tense, let’s remember that this was only months and a year or two ago.
However, Twitter clearly took umbrage to the shortening of messages for the purposes of RT and << and recently decided to build the RT function into the software as a button. But this has thrown up some less welcome effects – it messes with your timeline and can look like you’re following someone that you’re not.
So RT has lived on as the preferred retweeting mechanism. Until now. Twitter has started filtering out messages that contain RT @username from search results. This is bound to have a knock-on effect on trending topics – one of the more attractive draws to the social networking site.
This morning, lots of bright young things were including #RT in their messages to let Twitter know they were unhappy about the unpublished change, as well as #MakeBieberTrend (referring to Norwegian Justin Bieber, who started this mini-crusade).
I don’t use the Twitter platform itself, but instead prefer to manage multiple accounts through a third party application, designed for the purpose. In many of these, clicking the RT button simply adds RT @username. Which gives me no choice but to delete that element from the message.
The thing is that young, ambitious platforms like Twitter and Facebook don’t realise:
a. that their users expect a full and fair democracy – no matter how difficult, social media companies have to publish proposed changes and seek opinions before making them,
b. that social media audiences are fickle and will desert platforms quickly if they aren’t getting what they originally signed-up for, or better,
c. that any emigration will quickly grow in magnitude and centre on the most ubiquitous users – those who are most likely to consider themselves purists and whose absence will hurt the most.
I’m not alone in thinking that Twitter may well reverse the decision to filter out RT, or at least blame it on some technical hitch, instead of losing users.