Twitter's @Reply change sparks a revolt. Is Big Twitter watching?

A couple of hours ago I registered my disappointment with Twitter’s latest change to the way @ replies work. (The short story is that now you won’t see conversations between someone you follow and someone they are @replying to, that you don’t follow – which substantially affects your ability to find new and interesting people to follow).

Here’s what I tweeted:

I then moved on. But so far that tweet has now been Re-Tweeted over 60 times and counting. Now, I know I have over 9,500 followers. However, 60 in a short space of time is a lot of re-tweets for anything. Can we conclude that a lot of people don’t like the change to the way Twitter works? I think we can – the fact that the #fixreplies and #twitterfail have been the top trending topics on Twitter for a whole day speaks volumes.

Others (namely @IanBetteridge ) argue, pretty convincingly, that this will be a good thing for Twitter and clean up all those messy conversations between people you don’t know. I disagree. I argue that the haphazard discovery of people’s networks is what made Twitter great. Even Facebook allows us to see conversation between people we don’t know. On Twitter – if they don’t reverse their decision – it will be much harder.

And it’s the content of the conversations that is most important. I can surf other people’s profile pages and see who they follow – that is all very well. But there is no context to that relationship and that’s what the conversation allows me to see. By focusing on the content of people’s characters (their thoughts – but how long will it be before we just call them Tweets?), Twitter came up with an entirely new kind of social network.

Is is a huge shame that Twitter has now removed the switch allowing us to see “all replies”, and is bound to affect their model, at least amongst power users. It may even affect their traffic – half the reason people are on Twitter is to see who their friends are talking to – it’s only human nature.

Yes, they could well come up with a more structured way for us to follow conversations, but for now, the serendipitous delight of it all has gone. It seems we just aren’t adult enough to make our own decision on this, so “Big Twitter” is making it for us.