Twitter tests feature that lets users clamp down on conversations

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Twitter tests new feature that lets users limit who can reply.
Imagine a Twitter where only specified people can reply to a given tweet.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Twitter is expanding testing of a new feature that lets users specify exactly who can reply to their tweets. The new conversation settings, which Twitter said Wednesday it is rolling out to a small percentage of users, lets people limit replies to people they follow or to certain individuals.

It’s Twitter’s latest attempt to tame toxic conversations on the free-wheeling platform. (As you might expect, not everyone is thrilled with the concept.)

“Twitter is where you go to see and talk about what’s happening,” wrote Suzanne Xie, Twitter’s director of product management, in a blog post about the new option to limit replies. “But sometimes, unwanted replies make it hard to have meaningful conversations. (Ahem, reply guys.) Since last year, we’ve been working to give people more control over their conversations starting with the ability to hide replies. We also began trying out new ways to start conversations with casual, fleeting thoughts. And now, we’re testing new settings that let you choose who can reply to your Tweet and join your conversation.”

In addition to Xie’s post, Twitter also released an informational video about the feature. “Want to have a conversation with just a few people on Twitter?” the video says. “Well, we’re testing something new for you.”

The video shows exactly how the new conversation settings work. While composing a tweet, the user simply @mentions the person or people they want to include in the conversation. Then, the user taps the permission settings and chooses one of three options for who can reply to the tweet:

1) Everyone
2) People you follow
3) Only people you mentioned

You can see it in action for yourself:

You can limit Twitter replies, but the world is watching

Choosing to clamp down on a conversation like this doesn’t make it private, though. The rest of the Twitterverse will still be able to see the conversation — along with a notification that replies are limited. They just won’t be able to chime in.

Xie discussed the feature at CES in January, according to The Verge. She said the ability to limit replies could help make Twitter less harsh. “Getting ratio’d, getting dunked on, the dynamics that happen that we think aren’t as healthy are definitely part of … our thinking about this,” Xie said at the time.

The feature has changed since then as Twitter tested it, but the concept remains the same.

You won’t believe this, but Twitter is angry about the change

The move to limit Twitter replies immediately drew fire from people outraged by the potential to stifle conversations. (They also took the chance to demand an edit button for tweets.) As is typical, the responses ranged from thoughtful to totally venomous.