Twitter May Remove Hashtags, At-Replies


Twitter, the popular microblogging website, may remove its hashtags (#) and at-replies (@) if the reports on BuzzFeed are to be believed. According to the website, during her talk at the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange conference in Denver, head of news at Twitter, Vivian Schiller, hinted that Twitter might move the hashtag and at-replies “into the background of the service.” The report said, “Schiller called at-replies and hashtags arcane.”

The website said when Twitter was asked to respond to Schiller’s comments, it said that Schiller was “echoing a similar sentiment” of Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo. Twitter said that in a recent earnings meeting, Costolo had said that some changes would be made to Twitter.

To be specific, Costolo had said that, “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.”

Costolo also said the firm had taken initial steps towards that direction in October with the introduction of media forward timelines and in-line social actions. He also said that early signs show that these initiatives of the website have responded well.

However, it may be noted that Costolo had not specifically mentioned the hashtags and at-replies symbols in his address. Based on this, the website said, it may suggest that Schiller might have accidentally let slip the specific targets of Twitter for upgrade. Meanwhile, Schiller maintains that “Twitter is not getting rid of at-replies and retweets altogether,” but remained vague after this point.

It is not clear as yet how Twitter’s removal of hashtags and at-replies might work as the firm is keeping its changes strictly under wraps but there is a possibility that the at-replies may be replaced by formal Twitter names, similar to the practice of Facebook.

BuzzFeed termed Twitter “a strange service,” comparing it to social networking site Facebook. It said, Twitter is not very user-friendly as compared to Facebook. While the former demands a lot of upfront time and energy of the user to make connections, Facebook gathers “obvious information and then uses it to make obvious connections,” it said.

Changes to Twitter are being viewed positively by users. It has been speculated that if Twitter may remove the hashtags and at-replies, the service is likely to become faster and better optimized to move tweets quickly. Interactions may also be gathered more rapidly.

Going back to the website’s eight year history, this would not be the first change Twitter would make to make to its website to make it less confusing and more user-friendly. Previously, the retweet option of Twitter had been manual as users had to physically add ‘RT’ shorthand to share a tweet with their followers. Other, less obvious, changes have also helped users to better understand Twitter and the direction towards which it is going.

Until Twitter makes the changes public, it is still unclear of how Twitter may remove the hashtags and at-replies and what would be the changes that would come in its place. Nevertheless, an update on the website said that Twitter already seems “to be phasing out at-replies in its Android alpha test group app.” A BuzzFeed member had sent a screenshot to the website, which showed that in a test phase, the Twitter app has connected replies to tweets with just a conversation line and has eliminated the user handles, which were in place earlier.

By Faryal Najeeb



CBS Los Angeles


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