When you think of Twitter, chances are its of characters like @ or #, the reply or hashtag features that make it possible for you to connect with other users and expand your following on the social network. However, according to a recent report from the Telegraph, not even these devices on which Twitter has so long been based are sacred. In fact, Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s head of news, last week made a statement calling hashtags and @replies “arcane,” and several sources are pointing toward Twitter phasing out their use entirely with the next version of its mobile app.
Schiller referred to hashtags and @replies as “the scaffolding of Twitter,” suggesting that, while Twitter was built on these items, it doesn’t need them to be at the forefront in order to progress and move forward. CEO Dick Costolo has made similar comments in the past, stating on a recent financial call that “by bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background,” the social network would be able to boost the quality of user interactions and make it easier for casual users or outsiders to understand the appeal of Twitter. In short, ditching stylistic gimmicks like @replies and hashtags would allow Twitter to become more accessible to a wider range of users, much like Facebook has done over time.
A leaked screenshot of an alpha test Android app showed what Twitter might look like without @replies and hashtags. And while the app from which the screenshot was taken is by no means ready for public use and distribution, it’s clear that the social network is in the process of implementing the widest scale change yet since it first opened for business eight years ago.
The other major change was the addition of the “re-tweet” function, which was not originally a part of the Twitter interface, but which grew out of a movement of users who would copy and paste tweets of people they followed and tweet those messages themselves with an “RT” tacked onto the beginning. Twitter programmers ended up building the function into the social network’s capabilities.