In October, The Verge reported on new conversational features Twitter was testing in an effort to promote friendlier interactions on the often hostile site. Some of those features are now becoming more widely available — but only within twttr, a new public beta app that the company is using to test new features with the wider public. The Verge got access to twttr on Tuesday, and spent the past few hours reading and posting replies using the app’s new threading features.
The basic idea from October is still the same. In the flagship Twitter app, replies appear in a chaotic jumble. On twttr, replies are threaded in a way that might be familiar to users of Reddit. As more users interact with a tweet, additional replies are indented, giving the conversation a better visual hierarchy. Replies from the original tweeter are shadowed in black, rather than the blue of other responses, giving them added weight.
Another notable change in this design is the decision to remove engagement counts from the design. You won’t know how many likes or retweets a response got unless you tap it, a step most users will never take. The idea is to avoid rewarding people for attacking one another with zingers in the way that more visible engagement counts do.
Finally, the new design hides some replies under a “show more” button. That includes replies that “could be abusive or spammy,” a Twitter spokeswoman said in an email.
I would love to tell you that this new design changes everything about the Twitter experience, but in my experience so far the impact feels muted. The visual design feels like a good first effort, but lacks polish. The font for replies is considerably smaller than that of the original tweet, which may lead to some squinting for older users. It also creates more work on the part of the original tweeter — to like or respond to any reply, you have to tap on it individually. In the main app, you can simply scroll down and rapidly like any good responses.
On the other hand, the new design makes it much easier to read conversations for everyone else. Twitter is home to some amazing interactions — who can forget this exchange between millionaire Drake and billionaire T. Boone Pickens — but they are often obscured in the glut of replies that accounts with lots of followers receive. One benefit of threaded replies is that they can elevate the livelier or more notable parts of the chat over the noise.
Twitter says it will continue testing new features in twttr to gather feedback before releasing major changes globally. As notable new features arrive, we’ll test them out and tell you about them on The Verge.
Correction, 8:44 p.m. This article has been updated to reflect that the new “show replies” button hides replies that could be abusive or spammy, not replies that are off topic.