“What’s Happening” with Twitter?

    November 20, 2009
    Chris Crum

There’s a lot of change going on with Twitter these days. Recently we got the highly-anticipated Lists feature, which helped us to organize our streams and discover new, interesting people to follow. Then Twitter began rolling out its retweet button feature, which seemed like something that had been strangely missing from the service for a long time, but has ultimately caused something of an uproar among some of its users who don’t like the way it was implemented.

Now Twitter has gone so far as to change the text above the field from which users update their statuses. In fact the reason for this is that Twitter is no longer simply about updating one’s status.

"Twitter was originally conceived as a mobile status update service—an easy way to keep in touch with people in your life by sending and receiving short, frequent answers to one question, ‘What are you doing?’" explains Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone. "However, when we implemented the service, we chose to leave something out. To stay simple, Twitter did not require individuals to confirm relationships. Instead, we left things open."

"People, organizations, and businesses quickly began leveraging the open nature of the network to share anything they wanted, completely ignoring the original question, seemingly on a quest to both ask and answer a different, more immediate question, "What’s happening?" A simple text input field limited to 140 characters of text was all it took for creativity and ingenuity to thrive," he adds.

So that’s what Twitter now asks you: "What’s happening?" It’s no longer "What are you doing?" It’s hard to miss the practicality of the change, especially after reading Stone’s comments on it. But you can’t make changes to a popular service without people finding a reason not to like it.

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This move will probably not cause the controversy that the retweet feature has caused, simply because it does nothing to alter Twitter’s functionality. In fact, I’m sure many will agree with the company that "What’s Happening?" really is the better question. I’m almost certain that a much greater amount of people will respond with a complete lack of caring.

Stone closed his explanation of the change fittingly with the following statement: "We don’t expect this to change how anyone uses Twitter, but maybe it’ll make it easier to explain to your dad."

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