In its latest effort to “improve user experience,” Twitter aims to bring relief to users whose feeds are plagued with obnoxious tweets from other users. The popular social media platform is testing a feature that would let users effectively silence those annoying tweets by hiding them from their feed.
Muting (the in-app name for silencing an unwanted feed) would hide a selected account’s tweets from your feed, but features like Direct Messaging and notifications would still come through as normal. This effectively allows you to communicate directly with owners of muted feeds, but their daily tweets won’t bog you down anymore. Unlike third-party apps like Tweetdeck and Tweetbot, Twitter’s new app doesn’t let users set a time period for the mute; it shuts them up for good, or at least until you change your mind, when you can un-mute the feeds you’ve muted. And perhaps scheduling will become available when the feature is out of testing.
Twitter is known for experimenting with new features. In late March, the microblogging service began testing the use of Twitter handles without the @ symbol before user names. The iconic symbol is synonymous with Twitter, but since every character counts in a tweet, which is limited to 140, users may want that extra space now taken up by the @ symbol, eventually making it a thing of the past.
Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s head of news, recently called hashtags and @ replies “arcane.” But the word hashtag has taken on a life of its own in popular culture.
Twitter’s official blog writer, Alex Roetter, also commented on the company’s experimental history. “It’s rare for a day to go by when we’re not releasing at least one experiment,” Roetter wrote in September. Testing new features is essential, he said, even when they appear to fail.
“Those experiments are perhaps even more valuable because they help us decide what not to do -- which is important as we work to keep Twitter simple while improving the user experience.”
As of the end of March, Twitter had about 255 million users worldwide, up by about 9 million from the previous quarter and 25 percent year-over-year. With a constant virtual fire hose of short messages filled with “#” and “@" symbols, Twitter can be a daunting place for beginners. That’s kept it from achieving the same mainstream adoption as other platforms, like Facebook, which is a major problem when the company’s primary revenue stream is advertising.
To make matters worse, whereas Twitter added 19 million users in the first quarter of 2013, it added only 14 million in the first quarter of 2014, despite a major redesign to make Twitter profiles more attractive. Since its growth seems to be slowing, there's likely tremendous pressure on the company to improve and simplify its user experience.