Old vs. New Retweets, and Twitter’s Plight for Control

Nov 05, 2010 · 2 mins read
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A recent poll has indicated that users prefer the old retweet method to the new one, instituted by Twitter within the past two months. The poll, conducted by Karen Goel, found that 64% of participants prefer the old version of retweets. Are users longing for the old retweets because of nostalgia, or did Twitter make a misstep in switching up the retweet process?

If you recall, the old retweet method simply allowed you to copy and paste a message into your tweet update box, leaving you with the responsibility of adding the “RT” at the beginning of the message to indicate that you are quoting another Twitter user. Instead of merely repeating what someone else has already said, the typical behavior was to add in your own comment even before typing in “RT.” This way, you express your own opinion, speak on the content you’re sharing, and give attribution to the originator of that shared content. It was, in fact, an all-in-one solution.

The downfall, however, was the inability to easily retweet directly from Twitter. A good portion of the retweeting actions were performed through third party Twitter apps, most of which are equipped with a retweet button. If you see a tweet that you would like to quickly and easily share with your own followers, simply hit the provided retweet button. You can still add in your own comments, but the task of copying and pasting, and adding the “RT” form of attribution was done automatically.

As Twitter has also had to monitor and regulate certain abused features on its site, however, its own rendition of retweeting took things a step further in order to preserve the attribution process. When Twitter finally did add in a retweet option, it made the process unnecessarily confusing and too automated. There is no longer an option to add in your own comments, as Twitter felt that a retweet should hold the integrity of the original comment and not have the option of being changed.

Many that use Twitter’s site directly will likely not care that they can still retweet the old fashioned way–they’ll simply use the retweet option provided by Twitter. Third party apps still have their sensible versions of retweeting, so that is a welcome relief.

But the plight of the retweets for direct use of Twitter is something Twitter should remain aware of. In lieu of frequent changes made to basic processes on major networks like Facebook, the backlash from users and pundits can leave the networks a little bruised. Finding the balance between doing what’s best for the users while also respecting their wishes and feature requests is a task that only becomes more difficult as the user base grows.

For Twitter, the openness of its forum has been the blessing and the curse for its ability to maintain the core competencies of its product, as it lends itself to feature abuse rather readily. Further tweaking the retweet process may be in the best interest for Twitter in this case, however, as it seems that weeks later users still long for the unregulated use of the feature.