On Twitter’s first earnings call, CEO Dick Costolo had indicated that the company was going to try and make the platform easier for newbies to “get.” Looks like it might be doing that by getting rid of Twitter’s iconic “@” sign for replies.
Yesterday, Buzzfeed reported that Twitter’s head of news Vivian Schiller dropped a few hints about phasing out the “@” reply sign while speaking the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange conference in Denver.
According to Buzzfeed editor-in-chief, Schiller called at-replies and hashtags “arcane” and hinted that visually they would be moved to the background of the platform.
At-replies and hashtags are a big part of the special language used on Twitter, but maybe that’s why Costolo wants to get rid of them. Long popular among the media elite and pop culture enthusiasts, Twitter is experiencing a slow down of growth because it simply doesn’t appeal to regular people in the same way Facebook does. There’s no obvious appeal to use Twitter when you first sign up, and most people have to be “taught” by their colleagues on the subtle intricacies of mastering the platform. There’s too much friction in the process, and it leads to ghost Twitter profiles of people who joined long ago, but then gave up on engaging because it was too complicated to master.
By dropping the “@s” and the “#s,” Twitter is removing some of its mysterious and intimidating jargon, a move that could potentially alienate its current devotees, especially if it ends up making the platform look more like Facebook.