Leon Mika

Leon Mika

A Feature Request for Twitter, Free of Charge

It looks like Twitter’s product design team need some help. Their recent ideas, “inspired” by the features of other companies like Snap (Stories) and Club House (Audio Clips), don’t seem to be setting the world on fire. Well, here’s an idea for them to pursue, free of charge.

A lot of people I follow seem to use Twitter threads for long-form writing. This might be intentional, or it might be because they had a fleeting thought that they developed on the spot. But the end result is a single piece of writing, quantised over a series of tweets, and assembled as a thread.

I’d argue that consuming long-form writing this way is suboptimal. It’s doable: I can read the thread as they’re currently presented in the Twitter app and website. But it would also be nice to read it as a single web page, complete with a link that can be used to reference the thread as a whole.

Now, I don’t see these writers changing their behaviour any time soon. It’s obvious that people see value in producing content this way, otherwise they would do something else. But it’s because of this value that Twitter should lean in to this user behaviour, and make it easier to consume these threads as blog posts. The way they should do this is:

  • Offer the author the choice to publish the thread on a single web page, complete with a permalink URL that can be shared, once they have finished writing it. This could be on demand as they’re composing the thread, or it can be done automatically once the thread reaches a certain size.
  • Provide the link to this web page on the first tweet of the thread. The reader can follow the link to consume the thread on a single page, or can use the link to reference the thread as a whole.

I know that this is possible now, with things like the Thread Reader app, but there are some benefits for Twitter adding first party support for this. The first being that it keeps user on their “property”, especially if they add this feature to the app as well as the Twitter website. This neutralises the concern of sending the author or reader to another site to consume or publish their content, thereby feeding into the second benefit, which is that it elevates Twitter as a platform for writing long-form writing, in addition to microblogging. If their content can be enjoyed in a nicer reading experience, more writers would use Twitter to write this form of content, keeping users and writers on Twitter. The user benefits, the publisher benefits, and Twitter benefits. Win-win-win all round.

So there you are, Twitter, the next feature for the product backlog. It could be that I’m the only that that wants this, but I personally see more value in this than their other pie-in-the-sky endeavours that Twitter is perusing.

One final thing: I’m a big proponent of the open web and owning your own content, so I don’t endorse this as a way to publish your work. I’m coming at this as a reader of those that choose to use Twitter this way. Just because they’re OK with Twitter owning their content this way doesn’t mean I should have a less-than-adequate reading experience.