Twitter pulls a netflix

One of my early and still-popular posts talks about removing a feature for what are probably good business reasons, and angering a vocal subset of your customers while doing it. We made this mistake with StorageScope, and Netflix made it with their profiles.

Netflix ended up restoring profiles, and StorageScope has been working to restore the use cases we eliminated ever since we redesigned the product.

What does this have to do with Twitter?  In what they call a “small settings update” Twitter has removed the ability to see @replies to people you’re not following.  This isn’t a small change, it fundamentally alters how Twitter works.  Here’s the problem.

I join twitter, and I follow two people I know in real life.  I watch their conversations, and I notice that they’re spending a lot of time talking to a third person I’ve never met before.  I click on their name, see they are interesting, and follow them as well.  My network grows slowly over time to include people my friends are talking to, so that I can talk to them too.

Now, this did get confusing at times.  You had the choice to opt in or out of this additional information, and Twitter had to write extensive help documents about how it worked because people got lost.  So they just removed the option, and made it so the simplest setting (you only see @replies directed at people already in your network) was the only option.

And what do you know, people are annoyed.