In addition to testing out a new format for conversations within a prototype app called twttr and other features like a “Hide Tweet” button, Twitter today confirmed it’s also developing a feature that would allow users to subscribe to individual conversations taking place on its platform.
The new option was first spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse engineer who often peeks inside popular apps to discover their yet-to-be-launched features and changes.
Twitter is testing “Subscribe to conversation” so you can get notified over a conversation without liking or replying 🍿 pic.twitter.com/6hpSQcMJZD
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) March 15, 2019
Wong tells TechCrunch she found the “Subscribe to conversation” feature within the Android version of the Twitter app, where it’s a user interface prototype for now. The button simply reads “Subscribe to conversation” and is positioned at the top right corner of a tweet view, she says.
Reached for comment, Twitter didn’t provide details about specific launch plans. It noted the feature was under development, and pointed TechCrunch to its tweet confirming this. The company’s short statement reads, “This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational.”
This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational 🛠💬 https://t.co/jB4PWv3A04
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) March 15, 2019
Healthier and better structured conversations are among Twitter’s top goals at present, as the company tries to make its app easier to use and less prone to abuse.
The new subscription feature would allow someone to follow a thread without directly signaling their interest, or having to join in the conversation themselves. With a click of the button, users could instead opt to receive notifications when new tweets were added to that conversation.
To some extent, this feature is another example of how the change from stars to hearts as Twitter’s favoriting mechanism has had a ripple effect on Twitter’s development. The star had indicated interest, but didn’t convey an emotion. Twitter wanted to evoke a more positive vibe, so it shifted over to hearts several years ago. But as a result, people felt they could no longer save tweets they wanted to later reference using the default engagement mechanism, as it indicates an endorsement. (And not all tweets you’re saving are those you support.)
Twitter later addressed this problem with a separate tweet-saving feature, Bookmarks.
Now it’s creating yet another way to track tweets – and, in this case, the resulting conversation, too.
If Twitter had kept stars, it could have built out its “Likes” page with all these variations on tweet-saving and more. It could have added toggles for notifications, and who knows what else – keyword search across your saves? bookmarking with tags? private and public boards or collections, like Moments, but built from bookmarked collections?
Aggregating these features in one place could have made Twitter a valuable reference and “Read It Later” tool to rival apps like Pocket and Instapaper – or even web browser bookmarking itself.
But that’s not the path Twitter took, so now we’ll have Likes (hearts), Bookmarks, and conversation subscriptions, it seems.
Twitter declined to say when the new feature would arrive.
Update: 3/15/19, 5 PM ET to clarify Twitter spokesperson also directly confirmed the development of the feature, as did the tweet the company posted.