Twitter to Kill @ Replies and #Hashtags?

Could you imagine Twitter without @replies or #hashtags? Well, you might not have to imagine very long, as it seems Twitter is considering eliminating both, even though they are deeply ingrained within Twitter user culture.

The comments first came to light with a BuzzFeed story and tweet by BuzzfeedBen, based on Vivian Schiller’s speech at Newspaper Association of America mediaXchange 2014 event in Denver. Schiller, head of news at Twitter, reportedly said Twitter was working to move the scaffolding of Twitter, namely @replies and #hashtags to the background.

The comments made by Schiller were reportedly following up from the February earnings call by chief executive (CEO) Dick Costolo

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.

When pressed for follow-up comments, Schiller was once again vague, but said “There’s a lot of creative thinking going on around how to make Twitter more and more intuitive. Watch this space.”

This isn’t the first attempt by Twitter to bring down the amount of clutter in a newsfeed. They mostly relegated the usage of “RT” to the background by simply making a small “retweeted by” on top of retweeted tweets. This was initially a user-generated feature, as a way to share other’s tweets while attributing the originator properly.

Retweeted by Jennifer Slegg

Twitter-style hashtags have also been adopted, although not as successfully, on other social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+, so Twitter ceasing a practice which is so heavily used by Twitter users, and a feature which is arguably one of Twitter’s greatest features would be a huge mistake.

Twitter has also heavily promoted the use of hashtags over the years, such as in the trending topics as well as by users searching on Twitter, and it even became a late-night sketch featuring Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. However, even the trending topics are showing fewer #hashtagged trending topics than we usually see

Twitter Trends

Four of the trending topics aren’t actually hashtags at all. Yet everyone from CNN to recording artists use and promote hashtags, and to remove them would hinder those efforts as well – all efforts that do nothing but promote Twitter as the “go to” platform for anything breaking news or currently trending.

BuzzFeed also has a screenshot showing that Twitter has already changed how @replies are displayed within the feed.

BuzzFeed Twitter No At-Reply

The reply shows as a subset of the initial reply, but with the “@username” completely removed from the reply.

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