Twitter May be Planning to Get Rid of Visible @-Replies and Hashtags

Twitter's headquarters is pictured on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Francisco. (IMAGE: NOAH BERGER/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Twitter’s headquarters is pictured on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Francisco. (IMAGE: NOAH BERGER/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Twitter’s head of news, Vivian Schiller, momentarily sent Twitter into a self-reflective mini-frenzy when she revealed that the service might be eliminating some of its core features, namely @-replies and hashtags.

For now, the @-reply is the only way to connect a tweet with another account, and the hashtag is the main way to connect with a topic. Without the @-reply, the person you’re trying to mention in the tweet would not get a notification. Although keywords can sufficiently connect topic-based tweets, the hashtag is the strongest and most effective tool for the collection of tweets around a given subject area.

Schiller made the comment during a speech on Monday at the Newspaper Association of America mediaXchange 2014 event in Denver, according to BuzzFeed tech editor Charlie Warzel and editor in chief Ben Smith.

Twitter’s @vivian calls hashtags & @s “arcane”: “We are working on moving the scaffolding of twitter into the background” @cwarzel — Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) March 17, 2014

The story began picking up steam, despite Schiller’s attempt to bat down the idea two days later.

@StKonrath @cwarzel Not at all — Vivian Schiller (@vivian) March 19, 2014

In initial reports on the Schiller’s talk (and tweets using the event hashtag #MXCTwitter), the word “arcane” never comes up.

Even so, Schiller eventually replied with a more interesting and cryptic response:

@cwarzel @stkonrath There’s a lot of creative thinking going on around how to make Twitter more and more intuitive. Watch this space. — Vivian Schiller (@vivian) March 19, 2014

The comment seems to indicate that the arcane comment wasn’t all that offhand. In fact, Schiller’s comments align perfectly with those made by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo during the company’s most recent earnings call in February:

By bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background, we can increase high-quality interactions and make it more likely that new or casual users will find this service as indispensable as our existing core users do. And we took initial steps in that direction with the introduction of media forward timelines and in-line social actions in October, and we’re already starting to see early signs that those initiatives are working well.

Scanning the full archive of the call, however, reveals even more information about Twitter’s intent, and maybe some ambivalence about sweeping changes like removing @-replies and hashtags.

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SOURCE: Lance Ulanoff

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