A Wishlist For Twitter On Its Birthday

By Greg Kumparak , written on March 21, 2012

From The News Desk

Oh, Twitter. Just look at you. You've got your sundress on, your hair done up in bows. Grandma and grandpa are on the way, presents in tow. This can only mean one thing: It's your birthday! LET'S CELEBRATE!

Just kidding. You're a Web service. You don't even have hair. Or grandparents. I guess we could put a sundress on one of your servers, but that would just look ridiculous. So rather than eating cake and swinging a stick in the general direction of a paper pony, let's celebrate your birthday by looking forward.

For a major service that's rolling into its sixth year of life, it's kind of surprising how little has happened at Twitter. Each and every time I talk to someone at the company, I hear the same story: "We're hiring non-stop! My team doubles every month!"

Great! Growth is fantastic! But, erm, where's the innovation? The name of the game is "Innovate or Die!" not "Move slowly enough that you stay off the radar." Yes, Twitter has had a rather huge impact on the world — but how long has it been since the product itself was dramatically improved?

This is the ninth biggest website in the world we're talking about. They've raised nearly a billion dollars. When the biggest points of pride in the past few years for a company like that are "Our website only goes down a few times a day now!" or "We gobbled up yet another company!" or "Look! We moved the stuff that was on the right side of the page to the left side of the page!" then something seems really, really wrong.

But enough of that talk. Even though every fifth person I meet in San Francisco seems to work at Twitter, I can't possibly pretend to know every challenge that the company faces internally, nor what goes on behind closed doors. Twitter is, at its core, a platform, and being a platform is ridiculously hard. There are probably some insane hurdles that keep them from, you know, doing anything.

Instead of ranting on, I come bearing gifts. For Twitter's birthday, you see. Our gift: a list of gripes compiled from far too much chatter about Twitter had over cocktails, via email, or just in passing conversations with its power users. Think of it as a wishlist for Twitter (on Twitter's birthday, no less? How rude!) from the collective hivemind of its biggest fans.

The Wishlist:

  1. Basic text formatting: As anyone who has read just about anything I've ever written could tell you, I just love to use italics or bolding to put emphasis or tone on certain words.

That I still can't do this on Twitter, where every character is precious and expressing yourself clearly can be a challenge in creativity, is crazy.Imagine how much more could be said in 140 characters with italics, bolding, or, if we're feeling particularly crazy, strikeouts, all without bumping the character limit.

  • Make finding old Tweets suck less: A few times a week, I find myself needing to reference an old Tweet. Maybe it's to win an argument. Maybe it's for a post. Maybe it's because I just want to show someone the absurd crap they Tweet when they're drunk.
    Alas, Twitter makes this terrible. Finding anything older than a month or two is an exercise in extreme patience. Want to find it on their profile page itself? Scroll to the bottom, wait for it to load 20 more Tweets. Scroll to the bottom, wait for it to load another 20. Scroll. Wait. Scroll. Wait. Over. And. Over. Want to search for it? HAH. Good luck. Even if you know the author and exact words used in Tweets, Twitter's search always seems to come back empty handed.

  • Fix syncing of DMs: I hop on Twitter on my iPad. Hurray! New DMs! I'm popul …. Wait, no. It's just all of the DMs I read earlier today on my laptop, inexplicably marked as unread because I'm on a different platform/app now. Why, Twitter? Why must you get my hopes up so?
  • Let me filter someone's profile to just their original tweets: Twitter is a surprisingly wonderful place for conversations. Once I'm following someone, I'm completely interested in the conversations they might be having, especially when said conversations are with others I also follow.  
    Until I hit that follow button, however, I generally don't give a damn about seeing one out-of-context half of a conversation. Hell, I probably don't even care about their reTweets. I just want to see the original, independent content that someone has posted...and yet, I can't. Why can't I filter out the noise?
  • As with any service that has found its way into daily lives, the list of gripes could go on and on — but really, these are the ones that seem to come up almost every day. What's on your Twitter Birthday Wishlist? Drop a comment and let us know.