When you look in the mirror in the morning, what do you see? If you are Twitter executives, you see failure. Security holes as big as the Grand Canyon, an almost laughable spambot problem, and the worst kind of obliviousness about user requests.
At least with that last failure, the company is trying to learn a few lessons.
Recently, the social media company we all love to hate decided to do some internal testing with a long overdue edit feature. Edit Tweet allows you to fix a tweet for up to 30 minutes, and you can apparently do that “a few times” according to the official blog post. Eventually, Twitter plans to roll out the feature to those who have signed up for Twitter Blue (at $4.99 per month).
If you have followed the drama lately, or the drama from many years ago, or even the staunch resistance from way back in 2006, you know users have been asking for a simple way to fix a typo. Let me edit that sentence. They’ve been demanding the feature.
I mean, think about it. You can edit just about anything in tech (except that text you just sent to your boss, oops). Facebook and Instagram posts, photos with bad lighting, the sales presentation you are about to give. The concept of “editing” when it comes to computer technology is not exactly novel. Why has Twitter felt so strongly about this?
For starters, this is a company that has opinions. The “open source” mentality dates back to the very early days when Twitter was essentially a way to “hard code” your views out to the world using a platform that was completely unforgiving. I’ve always thought of Twitter as an app only a programmer could love. You compose your message, then release the product. If you make a mistake, everyone can see it and laugh. Might want to test it more thoroughly next time.
The short message approach — originally only 140 characters, then 280, now a new 2,500-word blogging feature that is also exclusive — came from the world of SMS texting. Keep it simple, keep it short. Be precise. Don’t elaborate, since there are other apps meant for that purpose. I don’t know. None of it really made sense back at the launch or even now.
Something in the DNA of the company is starting to change. It’s a mentality that used to view a tweet as a pure expression of what is happening right now, and is morphing into a company that wants to somehow survive and generate revenue. I’ll let Elon Musk and others decide if the Edit Tweet feature is really worth the fuss. Honestly, there’s a lot of work to do.
Jack Dorsey recently mentioned how his biggest regret is that Twitter became a company in the first place. That reinforces the programmer aesthetic to keep it pure and open source. I like the idea of making apps that benefit humanity, but I can also see how making an app that doesn’t really do anything worthwhile and has even degraded society might also be a problem.
I don’t think the answer is an edit feature.
The answer is in making Twitter much more viable over the next few years and into the next decade. Give us a reason to use the app all over again. Do something crazy and new. Stop fixing things you should have addressed shortly after the launch.
When you use a bandage approach, it just reinforces the idea that the problem exists. What works better? Doing something so cool we can’t help but start using the product again.