Both hashtags (#) and replies (@) are integral components of Twitter. However, Vivian Schiller, head of news at Twitter, may feel differently. Recently, speaking to an audience at the mediaXchange conference, Schiller called @replies and hashtags “arcane” and suggested that Twitter may be streamlining these features. “We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background,” she added.
Since then, Schiller has down played her comments, and when asked, Twitter replied that Schiller was simply echoing a similar sentiment shared by 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.
Interestingly enough, screenshots from the recent alpha version of Twitter for Android suggests that @replies may be phased out and replaced with a vertical line to connect conversations.
While it’s not immediately clear how this disappearance will function, it’s possible that @replies will be auto-replaced by formal Twitter names, similar to how they are on Facebook. On the other hand, it could be that users will still be required to write @replies and hashtags, but they will not be visible within a tweet. Of course, the hope is that the functionality remains the same with just a cleaner and simpler interface.
At this point, it is only an experiment and there is no suggestion that regular @mentions are affected. To Schiller’s point, it’s worth watching this space.
Share in the comments below if you would/wouldn’t like to see hashtags and @replies phased out.