Twitter is reportedly testing a new feature that would allow users to add a personal comment when retweeting. The new element of Twitter would replace the option to “quote a tweet” with “retweet with comment.” Users would still be allowed the maximum amount of 140 characters in which to comment on the original tweet; a limit which has made the hallmark of Twitter its required brevity. Retweeting allows users to post someone else’s original post on the user’s own timeline, allowing for the rapid spread of news throughout the social network.
The current “quote a tweet” feature places the original tweet as text within the retweet, meaning that the entire phrase, plus quotation marks, counts against the 140-character quota, leaving less space for the user to express personal opinions or comments after the original tweet. Besides the lack of characters allowed, what is problematic about this system is that many users will alter or abbreviate the content of the original tweet in order to gain more space in which to share their own thoughts. The new button, which appears as a Twitter card, allows for up to 280 characters per message, of which 140 will be used by the original tweet. Should the original tweet be less than 140 characters, users who retweet with comment will not be allowed the extra characters to use in their own message.
It appears that the original retweet option will remain. It is unclear as to whether the new feature will become a part of the application programming interface (API) to be workable with third party apps. If not, the “retweet with comment” feature will be limited to only those users who use the official Twitter applications.
Currently, only users within a select group who are operating these official Twitter apps have access to the new feature, which was discovered by Mashable when Carolyn Penner, head of product communications at Twitter, was testing it on her own timeline. Random users appear to have also been given the new component and are busy tweeting Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with “retweet with comment.” Some users have spilled the beans on Twitter’s new feature simply by tweeting their own screen grabs to Twitter – some undoubtedly using their new “retweet with comment” feature to express their disdain. Mashable also reports that some users have noticed a slight change to the format of their tweets, as images are now being posted above the text.
Twitter has always tested their new offerings, whether updates or new features, on a smaller subset of Twitter users in order to ascertain their reactions prior to going fully live with the changes. While Twitter is not responding to questions regarding “retweet with comment,” their vice president of engineering, Alex Roetter, once explained via blog post in Sept 2013 that, “It’s rare for a day to go by when we’re not releasing at least one experiment.” It just so happens that today’s experiment is of the visual and workable side, setting the Twittersphere all atwitter. Other features tested in this way before becoming a regular part of the app include hashtags, retweets and at-replies.
By Jennifer Pfalz