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Twitter issues mulligan on new 'retweet' feature

Twitter developer chat logs reveal that fresh new feature was pulled temporarily to fix some bugs.

It was a controversial new addition: Twitter had just started rolling out a new feature that built "retweets," a user-created way to quote other tweets, into the main Twitter application. But on Wednesday, plagued by errors, Twitter appears to have pulled the feature for further maintenance.

A post on the Twitter status blog late on Wednesday morning reads that it was "working on (a) high number of errors." The Next Web dug up some discussion from Twitter's developer IRC channel and found that "retweet is temporarily unavailable while we deploy a bug fix." There is not yet word on when it will be back.

The feature was so new that some Twitter users, myself included, never had it in the first place. But it promises to significantly change one part of the Twitter experience: with official, integrated retweets, gone is the signature "RT" in front of a quoted tweet. Instead, a retweet button pushes the original tweets into the retweeter's followers' streams of messages. Like so many Facebook redesigns and restructurings, that hasn't gone over so well with existing users. The blog Twitter Watch called integrated retweeting "the worst ever."

"While current users may get used to the feature, it's going to alienate new users," the Twitter Watch blog asserted. "Twitter isn't like Facebook; it can't boast the same network effect that makes Facebook indispensable. So it needs to keep things simple for new users. But now each new user will need to understand why much of their early friend feed will consist of messages they didn't subscribe to."

But there are advantages, too: with built-in retweets, it gets much easier to track exactly how popular or influential a given message or user is.