As messaging apps embrace ‘unsend’, Twitter can only ignore ‘edit tweet’ demands for so long


Everyone’s been there. A rushed, fat-fingered message to your friend, reminding them to bring the “monkey” they owe you for that concert ticket.

There are, of course, far worse autocorrect calamities, which is why mobile messaging companies the world over are caving to demands for remediation tools.

Today, Asian messaging giant Line revealed it was appeasing its 200 million users with a new feature that lets them “unsend” a message within a 24-hour period, both in group chats and one-to-one conversations. This is in addition to the existing “delete” feature, which allows users to remove a message on their own side, though who really wants to delete a message just from their own device?

Above: Line: Unsend

Line’s move echoes those of several other messaging companies in 2017. Back in January, Telegram began allowing message removals within a 48-hour period. This option was introduced eight months after a new feature that lets Telegram users edit messages after they’ve been sent.

Back in October, Facebook-owned WhatsApp caved to popular demand by finally allowing its billion-plus global users to permanently remove a message from all recipients within seven minutes of sending it. Sure, that won’t give you enough time to reverse a drunken retort from the night before, but it at least allows you to backtrack on a hastily constructed utterance sent in the heat of the moment.

Listen up

So it seems messaging companies the world over are listening to their users, who have made it clear they want to be able to remedy any regrettable message they’ve sent, whether by editing or deleting it.

Against this backdrop, Twitter yesterday announced a new feature in support of threads, something that will basically better enable tweet storms. But whenever Twitter rolls out a new feature, the same response comes in droves — “nice new feature, but what we really want is the ability to edit tweets.”

Above: No edit button?

Above: Yes. People seem to really want an “edit tweet” button.

The new thread feature arrived just a few months after Twitter ditched its 140-character limit in favor of 280 characters. Then, too, the feature solicited mass calls for an edit button, both from the public and from major media outlets.

Of course, Twitter already allows you to delete a tweet and resend it. But Twitter is a very different beast from private messaging apps, and you may already have garnered a ton of “likes” and “retweets” before you notice a horrible typo, meaning that an “edit” may be preferable to starting from scratch.

On the flip side, there are concerns that a sender could edit the meaning of their message, which would have potentially negative ramifications for those who have already “retweeted” or “liked” it.

There are workarounds to these problems but, put simply, there are both pros and cons to allowing users to edit tweets.

Twitter is primarily a public platform, whereas WhatsApp, Line, and Telegram are private messaging apps. So if Twitter is to cave in to public demand, it will have to address the “fat-fingers” problem differently. But one thing is sure: Twitter won’t be able to ignore its users forever — an “edit” function of some sort will likely arrive sooner rather than later.

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