Twitter is strange. By most measures, it's the smallest of the major social media platforms. It has fewer users, less revenue, and nowhere near as many features. On the other hand, it has always occupied an outsized role in influencing public conversations

To some extent that's because, unlike other networks, Twitter is -- with a few exceptions -- far more public. Anyone can follow President Joe Biden or Elon Musk or Taylor Swift or LeBron James if you want to know what they're up to. The same is true for just about every well-known and influential person. It's also true for less well-known people. 

Twitter also generates a disproportionate amount of attention compared with other platforms because of its real-time nature. Sure, there's an algorithm, but it's really easy to just scroll through what people are sharing as it happens. That makes it one of the most powerful tools for sharing and spreading news in real time.

Also, the service is mostly the same as it has been for the last 16 years. Yes, there have been new features, and the interface has evolved, but for the most part, Twitter is still the same place you go to see "what's happening." Of course, one thing a vast number of users seem to agree on is that Twitter is missing its most obvious feature: an edit button.
 

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Now, however, Twitter says it is adding that very feature. In a blog post on Thursday, Twitter confirmed that it is currently testing the feature internally and that users might very well start seeing edited tweets in their feed in the near future. The feature is supposed to be more widely available to users who pay for Twitter Blue, in the next few weeks.

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From the company's blog:

It's true: Edit Tweet is being tested by our team internally. The test will then be initially expanded to Twitter Blue subscribers in the coming weeks. Given that this is our most requested feature to date, we wanted to both update you on our progress and give you a heads up that, even if you're not in a test group, everyone will still be able to see if a Tweet has been edited.

Twitter says an edit button is the platform's "most requested feature to date." It's almost comical that there isn't one already. Sure, if you find a typo, you could always delete a tweet and post a corrected version. The problem is that by the time you realize you made a mistake, you might already have people who have replied to, liked, or even re-shared your tweet. 

There are a few reasons there's never been an edit button before. One is that Twitter was built on SMS technology -- text messaging. Originally, you could literally send a tweet by sending a text message. That protocol doesn't include the ability to edit messages, so Twitter didn't have it either. Technologically, Twitter couldn't give users an edit button. 

Of course, Twitter isn't still based on SMS technology, and I'm not sure anyone has tweeted via text message for probably a decade. 

The bigger reason there is no edit button is that Twitter has always seemed to be against it on principle. "We'll probably never do it," said founder and former CEO, Jack Dorsey, in an interview in 2019

One of the main reasons seems to be Twitter's outsized influence in shaping news and conversations about important topics. You could make an argument that allowing tweets to be edited could introduce all sorts of content moderation problems. I suppose that's true, but I'll simply point out that Facebook figured out how to let people edit posts, and for all of its problems (and there are many), edited posts aren't one of them.

Despite its popularity, I think the edit button is a terrible idea -- though not for either of the reasons mentioned above. In fact, it's precisely that the edit button is such a common request that I would argue Twitter is wading into treacherous water.

Why? Because, if Twitter gets it wrong, a lot of people will be very upset. And, if you've been on Twitter, well, ever, you know that its users almost ever agree. That makes the job even harder since no matter what Twitter does, some (probably large) number of people will think it's wrong.

The reality is, that there's a difference between what users think a feature should do, and what the people who design and build it think it should do. The latter group is restricted by the design and technological limitations involved with building features -- something users really don't care about. They just want it to do whatever they think it should do.

If it doesn't, they'll be disappointed. And they'll probably be more disappointed than they are already that it doesn't exist. Does Twitter really need that right now? 

Here's the thing, as much as I think Twitter should have an edit feature, the fact that it's taken so long means there's almost no way this ends well. If Twitter gets it wrong, almost everyone will be mad. If it gets it right, fewer people will be mad, but the expectations are so high, it will surely be a letdown. 

If you've spent years thinking that the thing that will fix Twitter is an edit button, you're going to be very disappointed to learn it's still the same dumpster fire, just with fewer typos. 

The lesson is this: When all of your customers are asking you for the same thing, it raises the stakes exponentially. Twitter would have probably been better off finding a way to test it quietly, instead of making a big deal about it. The best thing you can do when expectations are this high is not to feed into them, but to downplay whatever change you're making. You might even ask whether it's worth it at all.