Will we ever get to edit tweets?
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey once again raised the prospect of an edit option in a recent podcast interview with Joe Rogan.
In one part of the broad-ranging interview, the two discussed tweet edits specifically:
Rogan: "The ability to edit, like if you make a typo or something like that. But also the ability for people to see the original."
Dorsey: "We’re looking at exactly that. The reason we don’t have edit in the first place is we were built on SMS, we were built on text messaging. Once you send a text, you can’t take it back. So when you send a tweet it goes to the world instantaneously. You can’t take it back. You could build it as such so maybe we introduce a 5-second to 30-second delay in the sending. And within that window, you can edit. The issue with going longer than that is it takes that real-time nature of the conversational flow out of it".
Rogan: "Isn’t clarity more important? You’re still going to have the ability to communicate quickly."
Dorsey: "It depends on the context. If you’re in the context of an NBA game, you want to be fast and in the moment. You want to be raw. But if you’re in the context of considering what the president just did or making a particular statement, then you probably need some more time. And we can be dynamic there."
So that’s a maybe – it’s possible that, potentially, Twitter might be looking to roll out tweet editing, in some form, in the near future. Or not. Who really knows?
Really, the case against tweet editing is actually fairly solid – Twitter has long held that tweets, due to their short-form nature, are more susceptible to contextual shifts with even the slightest of update. Sure, you can edit posts on other platforms, but it’s not the same – on Instagram, the focus is on the visual, and the caption is a secondary element, while people write longer updates on Facebook and LinkedIn, making post editing on both potentially less problematic.
Re-sharing posts, via retweet, is also a more prominent option on Twitter – there’s no re-gram option (you can re-share a post within your Instagram Story, but without the caption, at least on initial appearance), while ‘Liking’ is the most common form of post interaction on Facebook and LinkedIn, with sharing coming in a distance behind.
When you consider both of these elements, you can see why Twitter might be concerned that retweets could be edited to misrepresent the original message. Twitter, of course, did double the character limit for tweets in late 2017, which somewhat lessens the potential impact. But still, there is some logic as to why Dorsey and Co. might be hesitant to allow tweet edits.
So why entertain the idea at all? Why doesn’t Dorsey just say 'no' outright and move on?
That seems to be the bigger question at play in this debate. Really, tweet editing wouldn’t make that big a difference to the way people use the platform. Yes, it’s annoying when you notice that you’ve made a mistake – you’ve missed a word as you’ve gone about editing down your tweet or you’ve hit the wrong letter in your typing. It’s annoying, but most of the time you become aware of it shortly after posting. Then, you can copy the text, delete the tweet, paste the message back into a new tweet, update as necessary. Then tweet it out again. According to Twitter, the vast majority of edits occur within a small window of time after editing, it’s not that huge of an imposition. It is, most often, a minor inconvenience.
Given this, the push for tweet editing actually seems to have become more of a symbolic one, a trending movement which is more reflective of Twitter’s wider problems than the actual functionality itself. You know who makes the most noise about tweet editing? People who use Twitter a lot, people who are active on the platform every day, people who have their Twitter stream open as they work, watching the new missives slot in.
You know who’s not going to stop using Twitter, whether tweet editing is rolled out or not?
Tweet editing won’t revolutionize the platform, it won’t change much. So really, why do it at all? Twitter should just rule it out straight away, say it’s never going to happen, move on, take it off the table entirely.
So why don’t they?
Various reports have suggested that decisiveness is not Jack Dorsey’s strength, that taking a hard line on something is not what he - and as a result, the company more broadly - is all about.
This further underlines the fact that the push for tweet editing is more symbolic – it’s become a vehicle through which to criticize Twitter’s leadership more broadly, to poke at them via a soft target. The platform has received a heap of criticism over its failure to address larger issues like trolls and abuse (another topic Dorsey addresses in his interview with Rogan), and other failings which can be largely attributed to the seeming inability of the company’s leadership to take a clear, solid stance.
Maybe, the debate around tweet editing is less about the capacity of the function itself, and more about the lack of faith in Twitter’s leadership.
And in that sense, maybe the push is a real, significant issue.