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Twitter’s edit button is a big test of the platform’s future

Twitter seems to have managed to add an edit button as much as possible. The edit button leans towards transparency, adding an edit history to each tweet and a large notice that the tweet has been edited. Users only have 30 minutes to edit their tweet and can only do so “a few times”. Twitter scrutinizes those numbers in its testing to see how editable tweets really are. It’s coming only to paid subscribers of Twitter Blue, and the test will start small. Twitter is being as cautious as possible on this matter and seems to have landed at the right place.

Even Twitter should be Have an edit button is still a fun and controversial debate. Will some users abuse the feature, create (or manufacture) viral tweets and then make them problematic for most users to see? You betcha. Do most people want an edit button to do perfectly valid, simple, platform-enhancing things? Yes. Twitter can do enough to track and mitigate abuse so that most users — who want to correct typos, rephrase misinterpretations, and update their tweets when things change — can use it for its intended purpose. ? That is the real question.

Twitter’s edit button is a big topic of conversation Recent vergaecastYou can listen to the podcasts above or anywhere you like.

Over the past two years, Twitter has accelerated its product development in a big way. The company promised and delivered on being more open about what it was thinking and testing. Fleets were huge, until they weren’t. Spaces are the future of Twitter, which obviously now includes podcasts. Twitter seemed all-in on newsletters for about an hour and a half. Super follow! Twitter Shops! Now there is Circle, Twitter’s feature to share only with your closest friends and followers. That’s a lot of stuff, and it’s hard to tell how much Twitter actually cares about any of it.

This is a good thing in many ways: Twitter has moved very slowly for more than a decade and is finally starting to ship software at an impressive pace. But the thing about Twitter is that it’s not like other social networks. It is further distributed. Many people encounter embedded tweets on websites; Many use third-party Twitter accounts; Many view tweets as cable news screenshots. You can embed Facebook posts and TikToks, sure, but Twitter’s status as the information nerve center of the Internet raises the stakes in how tweets move around the world.

Part of Twitter’s recent product push is to make its own app better so more people use it, see ads inside it, and drop $5 a month on Twitter Blue. Cramming more helpful features into its app is a classic platform strategy. But Twitter’s cultural impact still outweighs the app’s actual popularity. Twitter’s reach is likely to grow again in the next two years, with the US presidential election coming up. That means for Twitter to actually stick with a feature, it needs to exist outside the confines of its own app.

Twitter’s track record before that was, to put it mildly, appalling. The company has made noise about being a better partner for third-party developers, but many developers have been so fed up with Twitter’s behavior over the years that they aren’t likely to immediately jump on board with Twitter’s new ideas. And much of what the company is building and shipping isn’t even available on Tweetdeck, the power-user app Twitter owns.

It’s one thing that apps and platforms don’t support certain features or add-ons, but the Edit button amounts to a fundamental change to Twitter’s core unit: the tweet. If the same tweet looks different in different places, depending on where you look at it, Twitter suddenly starts to feel like an unreliable narrator.

And if Twitter’s future is a protocol rather than a platform, this becomes even more important. (The usual Elon Musk-related caveats apply here, though — no one knows the future of Twitter, everything is messy, and who knows where it all leads.) Twitter has said for years that it wants developers to “drive the future of innovation on Twitter,” and how the algorithms work from how the community works. Rethink everything that works. Project Bluesky was created to create an “open and decentralized standard for social media” on Twitter and is already working on tools to facilitate moving posts or engagement between platforms.

Twitter is trying to engage developers on the edit button, which is encouraging. “We know how important it is for you to have visibility into edited tweets,” its Twitter Dev account Tweeted on Thursday, “and we’re ready to provide read-support for edited tweet metadata via Twitter APIs.” This is good news for developers and researchers who are definitely curious about how the edit button is used. But even Twitter keeps saying it’s just a test, and chasing every Twitter test is a dangerous use of any developer’s time.

Following Twitter, it seems likely that the edit button will eventually ship more widely. As the company likes to remind us, this has been the most requested feature among Twitter users for years, and certainly many of those requests don’t want the feature for confusion-inducing or Bitcoin-scamming reasons. As and when it comes, it will change Twitter because it will change tweeting. And it changes things outside the Twitter app, whether the company is ready or not.

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