Twitter has a history of sharing feature and design ideas it’s considering at the very early stages of development. For example, earlier this month, it showed off concepts around a potential “unmentioned” feature that would let users untag themselves from others’ tweets. Today, the company is sharing a few more of its design explorations that would allow users to control better who can see their tweets and who ends up in their replies. The new concepts include a way to tweet only to a group of trusted friends, new prompts that would ask people to reconsider the language they’re using when posting a reply, and a “personas” feature that would allow you to tweet based on your different contexts — like tweets about your work life, your hobbies and interests, and so on.
The company says it’s thinking through these concepts and is looking to gather feedback on what it may later develop. The first of the new ideas build on work that began last year with the release of a feature that allows an original poster to choose who’s allowed to reply to their tweet. Today, users can choose to limit replies to only people mentioned in the tweet, only people they follow, or they can leave it defaulted to “everyone.” But even though this allows users to limit who can respond, everyone can see the tweet itself. And they can like, retweet, or quote tweet the post.
With the proposed Trusted Friends feature, users could tweet to a group of their choosing. This could be a way to use Twitter with real-life friends or another small network of people you know more personally. Perhaps you could post a tweet that only your New York friends could see when you wanted to let them know you were in town. Or maybe you could post only to those who share your love of a particular TV show, sporting event, or hobby.
This ability to have private conversations alongside public ones could boost people’s Twitter usage and even encourage some people to try tweeting for the first time. But it also could be disruptive to Twitter, as it would chip away at the company’s original idea of a platform that’s a sort of public message board where everyone is invited into the conversation. Users may begin to think about whether their post is worthy of being shared in public and decide to hold more of their content back from the wider Twitter audience, which could impact Twitter engagement metrics. It also pushes Twitter closer to the Facebook territory where only some posts are meant for the world, while more are shared with just friends.
Twitter says the benefit of this private, “friends only” format is that it could save people from the workarounds they’re currently using — like juggling multiple alt accounts or toggling between public to protected tweets.
Another new feature under consideration is Reply Language Prompts. This feature would allow Twitter users to choose phrases they don’t want to see in their replies. When someone is writing back to the original poster, these words and phrases would be highlighted, and a prompt would explain why the original poster doesn’t want to see that sort of language. For instance, users could configure prompts to appear if someone is using profanity in their reply.
The feature wouldn’t stop the poster from tweeting their reply — it’s more a gentle nudge that asks them to be more considerate. These “nudges” can have an impact. For example, when Twitter launched a nudge that suggested users read an article before they amplified it with a retweet, it found that users opened papers before sharing them 40% more often. But in the case of someone determined to troll, it may not do that much good.
The third, and perhaps most complicated, feature is something Twitter is calling “Facets.” This is an early idea about tweeting from different personas from one account. The quality would make sense for those who often tweet about various aspects of their lives, including their work life, side hustles, personal life or family, passions, and more.