Any Twitter user will be more than aware that the San Francisco based company isn’t shy when it comes to making changes. Historical amendments around their developer focused API caused more than its fair share of controversy when introduced earlier this year. The many millions of registered Twitter users have also been subjected to various changes over the company’s lifespan with the introduction of sponsored tweets showing up in timelines. After a period of public inactivity, the changes are happening again, but this time involving a relatively minor tweak on how direct messages currently work.
Direct messages are a way for users with a mutual following status to interact with one another behind closed doors. Twitter operates as a microblogging social platform allowing members to publicly post 140 character tweets for the world to see. However, like most social networks, Twitter also has the option for private messaging that has been historically limited to those who follow one another. The latest changes to the way the service operates now means that users can receive Direct Messages from any follower, regardless of whether or not you follow that user back.
At this point it is definitely worth noting that this seems to be an opt-in type of feature. The new option in the user’s dashboard settings appears to have started making an appearance at the start of the week and lets us decide if we want to "receive direct messages from follower". The accompanying information within the dashboard states that selecting the setting effectively negates the need for a mutual following relationship. If you’re the type of Twitter user who wants to be bombarded with DMs from random followers then this is the option for you.
When you actually stop and take the time to think about the change then it makes perfect sense. A large number of companies make regular use of Twitter to assist their customers and troubleshoot problems that they might be having. The use of the direct messaging system is commonplace when asking for account specific information to allow a greater level of support. The previous system meant that the company would need to be following every single customer they try to assist, which serves no purpose other than clogging up a timeline. This latest change removes that need.
The change will undoubtedly benefit a lot of Twitter users but let’s hope it remains an ‘opt-in’ setting rather than being selected by default.