No, Twitter's update won't make all your replies public

By now you may have heard that Twitter's got a few changes in the works. Basically, the company's rolling out new features that will give everyone a full 140 characters of text in each Tweet — @names, images and other media attachments, and more won't count against your treasured 140 characters.

That's all fine and dandy, but the company also announced another change that's setting the internet ablaze with Twitter-is-doomed-and-or-confusing-hot-takes:

Goodbye, .@: These changes will help simplify the rules around Tweets that start with a username. New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you'll no longer have to use the ".@" convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly.

Currently, if you type a new Tweet with a person's Twitter handle at the beginning, it will hide that Tweet from those who follow you — unless they also follow the person you've mentioned.

This Tweet, for example, can only be seen by people who follow both me and my pal A.J. Feather:

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But this Tweet (because of the period) can be seen by everyone who follows A.J., regardless of whether they follow me:

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When Twitter finishes rolling out the update, that's going to change. But we've got to get something straight, here, people: This doesn't mean that Twitter is making all your replies public.

Here's how the new reply rules work:

  • If you start a new Tweet from scratch and put someone's Twitter handle at the beginning (like the first Tweet above), everyone who follows you will see that Tweet.
  • If you reply to a Tweet, however, your reply will only be seen by those people who follow that person and you, just like before. It does not automatically stick all your replies into your friends' Twitter timelines.
  • Now, if you do want everyone to see your reply, Twitter's made it possible to Retweet and Quote-tweet yourself. You just have to Retweet your reply, and it will show up in your timeline.

Personally, I'm fond of this change. The put-a-period-in-front-of-a-Twitter-handle-for-everyone-to-see-your-reply method was always rather hacky and it sure as hell wasn't new-user friendly. Twitter's CEO says these changes are all about ease of use (i.e. new-user friendliness):

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But given all the confusion (and outrage) this morning after the changes were announced, you have to wonder if this will truly make things any easier. Is putting a period in front of a Twitter handle easier than keeping track of whether you hit reply or start a fresh Tweet? Hard to tell. One thing's for sure, Twitter could shift the text in a Tweet two pixels to the right and the internet would have something to say about it.

Did Twitter's announcement confuse you? Are you looking forward to the new reply rules? Let us know in the comments or send us a (new) Tweet on Twitter!

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

9 Comments
  • But I don't want to see people who I follow complain to Wal-Mart or Sony or whatever company/business/famous person/sports team is ******* them off today. And if they just make a new tweet and @ them, I'm gonna see it. That's dumb and annoying.
  • Instead of this I'd like to see them work on the below: A. if your tweets are protected and you tweet someone who doesn't follow you back, that person doesn't "receive" your tweet. That is just crazy! Who thought of that being ok! B. reply tweets should not be public. Only the person who is responded to should be able to see a response (without having to resort to DMs - in fact, get rid of DMs altogether!)
    I would also like to be able to opt out of having my Twitter profile come up in Google search results (like Facebook has). Sent from the iMore App
  • Been using Twitter for 7 years, now only I know the reason why some people I follow always put a period in front of @...
  • Hahaha same here. I always assumed Twitter worked like this "new way". I've been using Twitter since 09. I'm ashamed. Lol Sent from the iMore App
  • I was wondering, if my account is in private mode, I replied to someone's tweet whom his account is public and he doesn't follow me, will he be notified of it? Then, will he be able to reply me? If yes, will I be notified? I am always confused with this scenario, thus I have one private account and one public account which is definitely hard to maintain and pointless.
  • Both of those tweets can be publicly viewed by anyone. Perhaps you should be more clear on what you mean by 'public'. You can very easily see every single tweet from someone by hitting the Tweets & Replies section (assuming public accounts, no clue how things all work with private accounts)
  • In this case if it ain't broke, don't fix it twitter. Like finally getting the full 140 characters, but leave @ and replies how they were...
  • I really do not like this change. Firstly I don't want tweets I specifically direct at a particular user to appear on all my followers timelines, as most of the time these tweets are of no interest to followers. Only people who either search for words in the tweet or who specifically look at my @ tweets should see these messages. Secondly I don't want to start seeing these seemingly random tweets appearing in my timeline, as they're not directed at me, or at most people in general. Currently you can easily choose the visibility of @ tweets: Put a dot before the @ to make it appear to all followers, or don't to keep it just for those that look for it. This proposed change removes this choice from the user and forces all their tweets to appear on timelines. I can think of 2 things users will start to to do due to this change: 1. Even if it's a new message they'll chose to reply to an unrelated message just so that the message doesn't appear to all followers. This will result in thread getting contaminated with unrelated tweets. 2. Users will use DMs instead. But not all companies accept DMs from anyone, and it will reduce the number of public tweets on Twitter, something I imagine is bad for Twitter itself! It would also mean those messages aren't searchable by others who may be looking for an answer to the same question, resulting in even more DMs! I seriously hope Twitter reconsider this change, and at least make it possible to have the old @username functionality for specific tweets. I've sent a lot of @ tweets in my time, and only once or twice have I had the need to use a .@ as most are not interesting to followers.
  • Hate this update. Really makes one wonder if Twitter understands their own product.