What Do App Developers Think About Twitter's Upcoming Changes?

twitter-bird1Retweeting, or copying and posting another person’s tweet on Twitter, has become so popular that the San Francisco-based micro-messaging startup plans to incorporate a formal retweet feature on its site and API, co-founder Biz Stone wrote in a blog post last week. Because the update is more fluid than the current cut-and-paste manual method, it will be easier for people to share content and could spur them to retweet more, making Twitter more of a discovery content platform. Though the feature won’t be available for a few more weeks, developers already have an idea of how it will impact Twitter-based applications and the site’s overall ecosystem — and despite some reservations, the consensus among them is that it’s a step in the right direction.

Tweetmeme is the first company that comes to mind when it comes to retweeting because the function is the backbone of its web site, which aggregates the most popular links on Twitter based in part on the number of times people have retweeted them. It also developed a retweet button that can be installed on sites, blogs and RSS feeds. Tweetmeme CEO and founder Nick Halstead said he’s happy that Twitter is supporting the function and believes it will increase the overall number of retweets across the Twitter network. But he worries it will divide users into two tiers: those who use the retweet feature and those who stick with the current copy-and-paste method. Halstead believes some people will ignore the upcoming feature because it won’t let them add their own content to a retweet. Social media consultant and blogger Stowe Boyd also voiced this concern in a recent blog post, saying: “(I)f Twitter takes away our ability to comment on the retweets, people will start running around outside the implementation to get back the capabilities that have been taken away.”

The inability to comment on a retweet impacts the UIs of many Twitter-based applications, including Tweetdeck, HootSuite and CoTweet. Developers of these apps have created their own ways to post a retweet and will have to tweak them to accommodate the update. When people post a retweet via CoTweet, for instance, a dialogue box pops up that lets them edit the original tweet and choose when the retweet will be posted. But because the upcoming feature doesn’t let users edit a retweet, CoTweet CEO Jesse Engle said, that dialogue box will need to be modified. The company is still deciding how the new one will look.

The current method used to post a retweet on HootSuite and Tweetdeck is similar to that of CoTweet, except the retweet is posted in a box on top of your Twitter feed for you to edit. HootSuite is also deciding how the new feature will be incorporated into its app’s interface, said company CEO Ryan Holmes. Meanwhile, Tweetdeck will be reaching out to its users to get feedback on what elements of the retweet API they’d like the company to integrate and when the new feature should be launched, according to Tweetdeck CEO Iain Dodsworth.

Despite the UI changes, developers all agree that the upcoming feature will provide better metrics about which retweets are the most popular among Twitter users and why, as well as make it easier to track a series of retweets across the site. Some new users have been confused about what a retweet is and how to do it, and the feature could eradicate that problem. The update will also give more attribution to the original tweet, which will be displayed in the Twitter feed with the names of those who retweeted the message listed below. This will help businesses that use Twitter create more brand awareness around its followers, according to CoTweet’s Engle.

Here’s a mockup of the new feature:
retweet mockup

Images courtesy of Twitter.

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