Twitter's head of news, Vivian Schiller, momentarily sent Twitter into a self-reflective mini-frenzy when she revealed that the service might be eliminating some of its core features, namely @-replies and hashtags.
For now, the @-reply is the only way to connect a tweet with another account, and the hashtag is the main way to connect with a topic. Without the @-reply, the person you're trying to mention in the tweet would not get a notification. Although keywords can sufficiently connect topic-based tweets, the hashtag is the strongest and most effective tool for the collection of tweets around a given subject area.
What will Twitter look like in a year? Two years? A lot less like itself.
At least that’s the impression Vivian Schiller, head of news at Twitter, gave addressing the crowd two days ago at the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange conference in Denver. During her talk, Schiller called at-replies and hashtags “arcane” and hinted that Twitter might soon move them into the background of the service.
Twitter's @vivian calls hashtags & @s "arcane": "We are working on moving the scaffolding of twitter into the background" @cwarzelWhen asked about the comments, Twitter replied that Schiller was echoing a similar sentiment that the company’s CEO, Dick Costolo, addressed in a recent earnings call:
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. And 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.
Unlike Schiller’s, Costolo’s statement makes no specific mention of hashtags and at-replies, suggesting that Schiller may have accidentally hinted at specific targets for upgrade. While it’s not immediately clear how this disappearance would work, it’s possible that at-replies will be auto-replaced by formal Twitter names, like they are on Facebook.
It wouldn’t be the first time Twitter phased out one of its vestigial appendages. Twitter’s all but killed the original incarnation of the retweet or, as Twitter obsessives have now come to know it, the “manual retweet.” In its earlier days, the retweet was a user-generated feature; users had to physically add the “RT” shorthand to a tweet to share it with their followers. It was primitive and confusing to the uninitiated.