Twitter: What's changed, and what's next

Carlton Boyce / 08 June 2016 ( 22 June 2016 )

A summary of Twitter’s recent changes, and a run-down of what’s to come…



I’m a huge fan of Twitter, the microblogging service that has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. There are some very clever people out there and those that aren’t on YouTube are on Twitter; no matter what the occasion, enjoying it with my Twitter feed close at hand more than doubles the pleasure.

Yet it’s not perfect, something the developers would heartily agree with. Here is a summary of the changes they’ve made recently, along with a run-down of what’s to come!

Read our user's guide to Twitter

Best tweets first

Controversially, Twitter decided to introduce an algorithm that shows you the tweets it thinks you will be most interested in first, rather than displaying them in the strict chronological order it used to employ.

This works for some who would like to catch up with what’s been happening since they last checked their feed, but others hate it. If you are one of the latter then turning it off is easy: if you’re on your computer, simply press the gear icon on your profile page, then settings, then timeline. Then just slide the button to turn off “Show me the best tweets first”. It’s equally as simple on a phone - just access your settings via the menu. Voila!

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Start a poll

You can now start a poll on Twitter. I won’t insult your intelligence by talking you through how to do it but please do use it sparingly: no one cares whether you should give Tiddles chicken or fish for her tea.

Add a GIF

Similarly, you can add a GIF (Graphics Interchange Format, a short, compressed video clip that is easy and fast to upload) to your tweet.

Please feel free to have a play with it as there is some great stuff on there but don’t go overboard unless you have a real talent for making your own, in which case please feel free to tag me in; I love an original GIF.

Changing the character count

Twitter originally planned to dump the 140-character word limit, but general Twitterarti outrage (to be fair, there is a lot of outrage on Twitter…) forced a rethink.

The current thinking is that that photographs, GIFs and videos will no longer count towards the 140-character limit and neither will the user name of the person you are talking to, which might be a boon if they’ve got an especially long name. Not here yet, but coming.

Ditching .@

At the moment, if I start a tweet with a name (e.g. @motoringjourno), only those people who follow me and the other person will see it.

This works well unless you want all your followers to see it, in which case the convention is to start the tweet with a full stop (i.e. .@motoringjourno). Inserting the full stop in this way means everyone can see it. An example of when this might be useful could be when you want to complain to a company but want to name-and-shame them at the same time. (I told you: there is a lot of outrage on Twitter.)

However, in the future the initial conversation will be seen by everyone, even if it starts with @, but subsequent replies will only be seen by people who follow you both.

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Retweeting yourself

As of June 14, 2016, you can now retweet yourself. I’m not sure I understand why I would want to retweet something I’ve already said, but the world is full of people who say the same thing more than once, even when it made no sense the first time around. I guess it’s aimed at them. Luckily, the function will only allow anyone to retweet themselves once, saving us all a world of tedium appearing in our newsfeeds overnight.

140 second video

Previously, videos uploaded to Twitter were only allowed to be 30 seconds long - short and sweet, as per Twitter's overall MO. However, from June 21, 2016, anyone can post a video of up to 140 seconds long (which ties in nicely with the aforementioned 140 character limit). And Vine are due to be following in Twitter's footsteps, with a beta release that will increase their viedos from the ultra-snappy 6 seconds to 140 seconds too.

What is Vine?

What do you think? What would you like to see in the future? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


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