The theoretical benefit of being on Twitter, a broadcast-based open social network, is to talk with other people and follow their conversations, even ones that don’t include you. Somehow, in 2019, the product has degraded to the point where this has become impossible. It’s like running through a public square shouting at people, trying to start a dialogue while getting jostled by a crowd.
The primary issue is threads. Threaded tweets were first introduced back in December 2017 as an easier way for people to make “tweetstorms” cohesive. Twitter has done almost nothing to hone the feature since then.
Read: Twitter’s new features aren’t what users asked for
The most obvious problem with threading is that it assumes Twitter users think linearly. In real life, you may post a 12-part thread only to realize that you need to expand on or clarify just the third tweet. If you reply to that third entry alone, you’ll break the thread, splitting it into two and making it harder for people to find the original. This not only makes complex thoughts difficult to communicate, but it also makes deciphering them almost impossible.
The problems don’t stop there, though. The way Twitter shows replies is also confusing: Users have to click into each tweet in a thread to get the full scope of responses to it. There’s no simple, all-encompassing hub to view both the thread and the conversation happening around it.
The #KaraJack chat would have been a perfect opportunity for Twitter to show off a new hashtag hub or similar feature. The company has invested resources into adding emojis to the end of special hashtags, but it still hasn’t harnessed hashtags’ real power: collecting conversation. (Twitter declined to comment.)
When users click the #KaraJack hashtag, for instance, they should be presented with a chronological, easy-to-follow feed of Swisher and Dorsey’s conversation and the response tweets to it. Instead, Twitter offers a messy, algorithmic timeline full of random tweets, mostly from other people. Since both Swisher and Dorsey failed to include the #KaraJack tag in some of their tweets, those tweets are nowhere to be found. This is a missed opportunity: Twitter should have a way for users to hashtag an entire thread. Part of Swisher’s and Dorsey’s hashtag negligence could have been due to character-count pressures, since hashtags still inexplicably count toward the limit on each tweet. This makes users less likely to categorize their own content via hashtags; the company’s CEO just proved as much firsthand.
Though Twitter prides itself on being an open social network, the #KaraJack interview proves its desperate need for more walled-off spaces. Currently Twitter offers users only two core privacy options: You can set your entire profile and tweets to public or private. But users who choose to remain private should have the ability to make their voices heard in public conversations. Twitter could offer privacy restrictions on individual units of content, as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and just about every other modern social platform do. Or it could allow users to keep a private profile while tweets with a public hashtag could be open to views, replies, and retweets from other users.