The design is simple: There’s a retweet link by each tweet and, with two clicks, it will be sent on to your followers. This takes care of the mangled and messy problem because no one gets an opportunity to edit the tweet (more on that below). The meta data (about who tweeted and who retweeted) is not in the tweet text itself, so they never have to be edited for length. Because they’re built natively into the system, they’re trackable. And because they’re trackable, we can take care of the redundancy problem: You will only get the first copy of something retweeted multiple times by people you follow.
Evan Williams, co-founder and CEO of Twitter unveiled their official foray into redefining retweets. So far, retweeting had developed outside Twitter’s control and app developers adopted it successfully making it insanely popular among users to spread news. After Twitter modified their replies behavior, retweeting was the only way to discover interesting people and often served as an effective mode of disseminating breaking news without following a million people.
But by not being satisfied with the current state of things, Twitter has correctly identified several problems with retweeting like duplication, chain of attribution, wrongful attribution, massacring of the original tweet by editing, etc. Their fix seems to be simple and would make retweeting a pleasure to read and would give credit where it is due. Plagiarism has crept into the world of Twitter too and I’ve unfollowed couple of people because they failed to understand that ‘stealing’ someone else’s tweets was wrong. More importantly, I was impressed with Evan’s detailed post outlining not just their thought process behind the change but also the reasons why and how Twitter is implementing this change. If only more online companies (Face*cough*Book) took this route, they would have to deal with user backlash less often. As Gruber observes correctly, Twitter has now crossed the threshold from tech-culture to pop-culture where resistance to change and backlash can be more intense. Therefore such a strategy of laying out what to expect proves beneficial instead of springing a surprise on users overnight.
This new feature hasn’t yet been activated on my account but first looks seem positive. Better still, this won’t just be a Twitter homepage feature but third-party app developers have already been made aware of this change. So if you use TweetDeck, Twitterific, or Tweetie, chances are you will begin to see this change as Twitter rolls it out.
Update: People not satisfied with the default retweeting features are coming up with fixes of their own. Leonard Lin improves on the avatar featured in new retweets. I too prefer this.