Nothing appears to be sacred in Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s experiments to make Twitter easier for new users to understand.
The company is currently experimenting with a version that doesn’t have a “retweet” function. Instead, the buttons display the word “share,” which is a sort of generic command used by a lot of social media companies to encourage people to repost or, er, retweet stuff so that their friends will see it.
Twitter is constantly testing product tweaks. It rolls them out to a small sample of users. It uses the data from their reaction to inform product releases later.
People on Twitter who are within the small population of users who are seeing “share” instead of “retweet” are, naturally, freaking out.
(Heavy social media users are, weirdly, extremely conservative when it comes to their user interfaces.)
This is what the actual experimental “share” button looks like:
Here’s a sampling of their reactions, as curated by CNBC’s Eli Langer:
It’s important to note that the share button does exactly the same thing as the retweet button. It simply has a different name.
The “retweet” has for years been a core part of the Twitter brand, part of its internal lingo and currency. Generally, Twitter users hope for as many retweets as possible.
But Costolo revealed on his most recent earnings call that user engagement was down at Twitter and user growth overall was nearing stagnation at 241 million users. The problem is that nearly 1 billion people have signed up for Twitter and then abandoned it. Investors punished the stock even though the company’s financials were sound.
Costolo has said that he believes the user interface is too intimidating to new users because they need to learn Twitter’s jargon, such as “retweet,” @” and “MT.” In fact, Costolo is also experimenting with doing away with the “@” symbol.
Bottom line: Don’t expect “retweet” to be killed off anytime soon. Twitter will doubtless be comparing the results of all its experiments before making any big decisions.