Twitter’s edit button is a big test for the future of the platform

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Twitter seems to have handled adding an edit button as best it can. The edit button focuses on transparency, adding an edit history for each tweet and a big notification that a tweet has been edited. Users only have 30 minutes to edit their tweet and can only do so “a few times”. Twitter will certainly take a close look at those numbers during testing to see exactly how editable tweets really should be. It’s only coming to Twitter Blue paying subscribers, and the test will start small. Twitter is being as careful as possible here and seems to have landed in the right place.

Whether on Twitter should having an edit button is still a fun and controversial debate. Will some users abuse the feature, create (or produce) viral tweets and then turn them into something problematic that many users see? Sure. Do most people want an edit button to do fully valid, normal, platform-enhancing stuff? Yes. Can Twitter do enough to detect and limit the abuse so that the vast majority of users — who just want to correct typos, reword things that are misinterpreted, and update their tweets when things change — can use it for objective ? That’s the real question.

The Twitter edit button has been a big topic of conversation about the most recent Vergecastwhich you can listen to above or wherever you get your podcasts from.

In recent years, Twitter has greatly accelerated the pace of its product development. The company made and kept a promise to be more open about what it thought and tested. Fleets would be huge, until they weren’t. Spaces are the future of Twitter, which apparently now includes podcasts. Twitter seemed all-in on newsletters for about an hour and a half. Super follows! Twitter stores! Now there’s Circle, Twitter’s feature for sharing with only your closest friends and followers. It’s a lot of stuff, and it’s hard to tell how much Twitter really cares.

This is a good thing in many ways: Twitter moved too slowly for over a decade and finally started sending software at an impressive speed. But the thing with Twitter is that it’s not like other social networks. It’s more spread out. Many people see tweets as embeds on websites; many use third-party Twitter accounts; many see tweets just like screenshots on cable news. You can embed Facebook messages and TikToks, of course, but Twitter’s status as the Internet’s sort of informational nerve center raises the stakes on how tweets move around the world.

Part of Twitter’s recent product push has been to make its own app better so more people use it, watch ads in it, and drop $5 a month on Twitter Blue. Cramming more support features into its app is a classic platform strategy. But Twitter’s cultural impact still far outweighs the app’s actual popularity. With presidential elections on the way in the US too, Twitter’s reach is likely to increase again in the coming years. That means that in order for Twitter to actually paste a feature, it needs to paste outside the boundaries of its own app.

Twitter’s track record in that area is, in a word, appalling. The company has been making noise about being a better partner for third-party developers, but many developers have been so jaded by Twitter’s behavior over the years that they probably won’t jump on board with Twitter’s new ideas right away. And most of the stuff the company has built and shipped isn’t even available in Tweetdeck, the power-user app Twitter owns.

It’s one thing for apps and platforms not to support certain features or add-ons, but the edit button amounts to a fundamental change to the core unit of Twitter: the tweet. When a single tweet can be different things in different places depending on where you see it, Twitter suddenly starts to become an unreliable narrator.

And if the future of Twitter is a protocol rather than a platform, it will only become more important. (The usual Elon Musk-related caveats apply here, of course — no one knows the future of Twitter, everything is chaos, and who knows where this all ends up.) Twitter has been saying for a few years now that it wants developers to “drive the future of innovation.” on Twitter”, and rethink everything from how the community works to how the algorithms work. Project Bluesky was created within Twitter to build an “open and decentralized social media standard” and is already working on tools that will make it easier to move messages or engagement between platforms.

Twitter is trying to get developers involved with the edit button, which is encouraging. “We know how important it will be for you to understand edited Tweets,” his Twitter Dev account tweeted on thursday, “and we are ready to provide read support for edited Tweet metadata via the Twitter APIs.” This is good news for developers and researchers alike who will certainly be curious about using the edit button. But Twitter also keeps saying this is just a test, and chasing every Twitter test is a dangerous use of any developer’s time.

It seems likely that Twitter will follow the edit button and eventually send it widely. As the company reminds us, it has been the most requested feature among Twitter users for years, and most of those applicants certainly don’t want the feature for chaos-inducing or bitcoin scam reasons. If and when it comes it will change Twitter because it changes the tweet. And it will change things way beyond the Twitter app, whether the company is ready or not.


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