Twitter Removes Follow-Back Requirement For Direct Messages

Twitter is trying to make itself more useful as a person-to-person communications service as well as a social network.

Twitter has changed how you can receive direct messages. Users no longer have to be "following" each other to exchange the private communications. The new system is opt-in only, which allows users to preserve the privacy and quiet state of their inbox, if they prefer.

DMs are more or less Twitter's equivalent of private email conversations or IMs—traditionally they are only available for people who actually follow each other. It's a powerful system that many people use as an alternative to snowed-in email inboxes. But the requirement for users to have the follower connection made things tricky for power tweeps with many thousands of followers. If you now opt-in through Twitter's new settings, you can choose to receive DMs from any user that follows you without having to follow them back.

Twitter's move may be a subtle one, but it does add some very important utility to the system, and positions it even more as a 21st-century alternative to email. The company has also recently adjusted how verified users interact, allowing these Twitter uber-users to filter out non-verified communications if they wish. As the company approaches IPO, this sort of maneuver may be important to show Twitter has larger long-term goals than merely growing its user base—it wants to be used in more creative ways.

[Image: Flickr user Frank Hebbert]

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  • danfarfan

    "If you now opt-in through Twitter's new settings, you can choose to receive DMs from any user that follows you without having to follow them back."

    This is simply stone cold false.
    Not "..any user that follows you.."
    Any *account* that follows you.

    The idea that this is about anything other than advertising is equal parts joke and insult. Most people will not bother to change their setting (a lesson FB has proven over and over again) which means EVERY tweet to a #hashtag is an invitation to a bot from a service bureau hired by an advertiser to first collect and then (now) DM you. Why DM now all of a sudden? Because spamming your timeline with a mere mention and so-called promoted tweets isn't helping advertisers enough to make Twitter profitable. Twitter is scrambling trying to trick enough investors prior to the IPO.

    But the real comedy here is twitter is sitting on the single largest potential revenue stream in the history of digital communication, but they just don't see it. They've been courting the wrong people for the wrong reasons for so long, with every move they make it becomes less and less likely they'll ever see it. Which all means one thing.... #vulnerable.

  • @brentwgraham

    It's important to note that it is "opt-in", rather than facebook's typical "opt-out". Unless you choose to change your settings, you will not be affected.

    I think that's an important point and good on twitter. As for the "replacing email" aspect of this article... LOL.

  • timage

    Maybe this move will change the way DM is "mostly" used. Right now, DM is the preferred channel of spammers.