Twitter’s edit button: Big test for its future

Twitter appears to have endured adding an edit button about as well as possible. Unfortunately, the edit button is biased toward clarity, adding an edit history for each tweet and a principal notice saying a tweet has been edited.

As a result, users only have 30 minutes to edit their tweets and can only do so “a few times.” In its testing, Twitter will look at those numbers to see precisely how editable tweets should be.

It’s only coming to remunerating subscribers of Twitter Blue, and the test will begin small. Twitter is as meticulous as can be on this one and appears to have landed in the right place.

Whether Twitter should hold an edit button is still a fun and contentious debate. Will some users abuse the feature, building viral tweets and then changing them to something problematic that many users see? Absolutely. Do most people want an edit button to do valid, everyday, platform-improving fortes? Yep. Can Twitter do enough to track and mitigate the abuse so that the vast majority of users — who want to correct typos, re-phrase things that are being misinterpreted, and update their tweets as things change — can use it for its intended purpose? That’s the real question.

Over the last few years, Twitter has picked up the pace of its product development in a big way. The company made and fulfilled a promise to be more open about what it was thinking and testing. Fleets were going to be huge until they weren’t. Spaces are the future of Twitter, which now includes podcasts. Twitter seemed all-in on newsletters for about an hour and a half. Super Follows! Twitter Shops! There’s Circle, Twitter’s feature for sharing with only your closest friends and followers. It’s a lot of stuff, and it’s hard to tell how much Twitter cares about it.

It is, in numerous ways, a good thing: Twitter moved too slowly for over a decade and finally started shipping software at impressive speed. But the thing about Twitter is it’s not like other social networks. It’s more distributed. Many people encounter tweets embedded on websites; many use third-party Twitter accounts; many see tweets just as screenshots on cable news. You can embed Facebook posts and TikToks, sure, but Twitter’s status as the sort of informational nerve center of the internet makes the stakes higher for how tweets move through the world.

Twitter’s recent product push has been to improve its app so that more people use it, look at ads inside it, and drop $5 a month on Twitter Blue. Cramming more ancillary features into its app is a classic platform strategy. But Twitter’s cultural impact still vastly exceeds the actual popularity of the app. Moreover, with a presidential election in the US, Twitter’s reach will likely spike again over the next couple of years. That means that for Twitter to make a feature stick, it must stick outside the confines of its app.

Twitter’s track record on that front is, in a word, terrible. The company has made noise about being a better partner to third-party developers. Still, many developers are so tired of Twitter’s behavior over the years that they’re not likely to jump on board with Twitter’s new ideas immediately. And most of the things the company has been building and shipping aren’t even available in Tweetdeck, the power-user app Twitter owns.

It’s one thing for apps and platforms not to support certain features or add-ons, but the edit button amounts to a fundamental change to the core unit of Twitter: the tweet. If a single tweet can be different things in different places, depending on where you’re seeing it, Twitter suddenly starts to feel like an unreliable narrator.

And if Twitter’s future is as a protocol rather than a platform, this will only become more important. Twitter has been saying for a couple of years that it wants developers to “drive the future of innovation on Twitter” and re-think everything from how the community operates to how the algorithms work. Project Bluesky was created within Twitter to build an “open and decentralized standard for social media” and is already working on tools that would make it easier to move posts or engagement between platforms.

Twitter is trying to engage developers on the edit button, which is encouraging. “We understand how critical it will be for you to have visibility into edited Tweets,” its Twitter Dev account tweeted on Thursday, “and we’re ready to offer read-support for edited Tweet metadata via the Twitter APIs.” It is good news for developers and researchers interested in how the edit button is used. But Twitter also continues to say this is just a test, and chasing every Twitter test is a dangerous use of any developer’s time.

It seems likely that Twitter will follow through and eventually ship the edit button widely. As the company likes to remind us, it’s been the most-requested feature among Twitter users for years, and indeed most of those requestors don’t want the part for chaos-inducing or bitcoin-scamming reasons. So it will change Twitter because it changes the tweet. And it will change things far outside the Twitter app, whether the company is ready or not.

As millions of Twitter user demand an Edit button to correct spelling errors in their tweets, Twitter has started testing an undo tweet feature which could first be rolled out to paid customers via a subscription service.

Twitter confirmed that it is testing the ‘undo tweet’ feature. App researcher Jane Manchun Wong first discovered a subscription screen tied to the feature. “Twitter is working on app subscription for paid features like ‘Undo Tweet,” she said in a tweet along with a screenshot on Friday.

The feature is different from deleting a tweet which its available to all users at the moment, as undoing a tweet will eventually stop it from being sent. Gmail offers a similar option for emails, where it provides a short window to stop messages from being sent after clicking the “Send” button.

The Twitter “undo button” also doubles as a progress bar, showing how long you have to undo a tweet before it gets sent. The `Undo Send` button is likely to provide a 30-second window for users to recall or withdraw a tweet with typos and other errors before anyone can see it.

This will, however, be only an alternative to ‘Edit’ button users have been demanding for years. Twitter aims to more than double its total annual revenue to over $7.5 billion in 2023 with at least 315 million mDAU (monetisable daily active users), its CEO Jack Dorsey has said, and a paid subscription service is another move to achieve the goal.