Hey, have you heard? Twitter is changing its Retweet feature, and everyone is complaining about it. Hubspot's Dan Zarella says the feature "could completely eviscerate most of the value out of Retweets." PC Mag's Lance Ulanoff calls it "frightening dictatorial." And fired-up users are tweeting their frustrations en masse, tagging each missive with "SaveRetweets."
So what's changed, exactly? According to Evan Williams:
The [new] design is simple: There's a retweet link by each tweet and, with two clicks, it will be sent on to your followers. The meta data (about who tweeted and who retweeted) is not in the tweet text itself, so they never have to be edited for length. And ... you will only get the first copy of something retweeted multiple times by people you follow.
Having used Twitter's new Retweet feature, I can assure you that it's nowhere near as apocalyptic as some bloggers make it seem; it's actually pretty ingenious. And bless his verbose heart, Williams just posted a 6,500-character defense--on his blog, not his Twitter feed--that deftly addresses the three main user gripes. We've summed them up in fewer words (but significantly more than 140 character) here:
But Evan, there was nothing wrong with the old Retweeting system!
Because organically retweeted tweets can be edited, even if the original author is properly understood as the author, it's not necessarily for what they really said. Inaccurate attribution is possible in any medium. But in Twitter, because of the character limit, it's often necessary. People shorten and edit retweeted tweets to make them fit along with the extra metadata. Even when for legit purposes, that can be misleading and unfair to the author. Worse, RTs can actually be easily faked, which has become a form of spam, wherein well-known people are shown to be promoting something they never twittered about.
[Also,] if five people you follow retweet the same thing, you get five copies, which can be useful but it a lot of noise. This comes up even more in search. Popular users can get retweeted enough to saturate a search query. Coincidentally, as I'm writing this I came across this:
drandakis @ev I need a filter than removes multiple RTs of the same tweet. Can't stand it anymore...
But Evan, I don't want strange avatars popping up in my Twitter feed!
You're already reading the content from these people via organic retweets. This is just giving you more context. My experience is that you get used to this pretty quickly, and it's a welcome way to mix things up. If you find someone constantly throwing people in there you don't like, as mentioned before, you can turn off Retweets from them (while still following their non-retweets). And if you really don't like it, and you only want to see what people you follow wrote themselves, you can turn off Retweets for everyone you follow (individually). Organic RTs do not offer nearly this flexibility.
But Evan, I want to be able to edit my Retweets!
We left [that function] out of this first version mostly for simplicity. It's especially tricky when you consider transports like SMS where adding a lot of structure or additional content is hard. But we have some ideas there, and it's possible we'll build that in at a later date. (This point should not be missed.)
What about those cases where you really want to add a comment when RTing something? Keep in mind, there's nothing stopping you from simply quoting another tweet if that's what you want to do. Also, old-school retweets are still allowed, as well. We had to prioritize some use cases over others in this release. But just as Twitter didn't have this functionality at all before, people can still work around and do whatever they want. This just gives another option.
[Images via Twitter]