Twitter could be doing away with some of its most recognisable features: the hashtag and the @reply.
Twitter’s Head of News, Vivian Schiller, stated at a media conference in Denver that the site’s communication methods were “arcane” and implied that Twitter was developing a way to integrate them more smoothly into the site. “We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background,” she said.
These comments follow another, similar statement by Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo, who admitted that new users sometimes struggle to get to grips with Twitter. He said: ”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.”
“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.”
So what’s next? It’s hard to imagine Twitter without its ubiquitous hashtags, especially since their use has spilled over into other prominent social networking sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Saying that, I won’t deny that it irks me beyond reasonability when they are used improperly. If “pushing the scaffolding to the background” makes hashtags like #ExcitedToGetMyHairCutOnTuesday redundant, then that can only be a good thing, in my opinion.
As for the @replies, Buzzfeed has published some screenshots that suggest that Twitter is testing a version sans @replies with its alpha test group for their Android app. It seems that the @reply is automatically removed when a user includes it in a comment. Other than that, the function works in exactly the same way. This seems to work okay when you’re having a one-on-one conversation, but would definitely need more work for when you’re conversing with several users at once.
Costolo finished by saying, ”we don’t think we need to change anything about the characteristics of our platform, we simply need to make Twitter a better Twitter.” We shall wait with bated breath to see what that entails.