Twitter's working on an edit button, but it won't be what you think

It's a decade in the making... and still counting.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
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Twitter is a confounding place for many reasons, but perhaps its oddest quirk is that since its founding in 2006, it hasn't had an edit button.

That may change, and soon. CEO Jack Dorsey  reportedly told an audience in India that the company is considering adding the edit functionality to tweets, primarily to fix typos.

"We have been considering this for a while and we have to do [it] in the right way. We can't just rush it out. We can't make something which is distracting or takes anything away from the public record," he said, according to a report in The Next Web on Monday. He added that Twitter will not let people edit willy nilly, for fear that people might abuse the feature to alter controversial or damning statements after the fact.

Twitter declined to comment beyond an October tweet in which the company said it's hard at work trying to incentivize "healthy conversation."

Twitter's omission of an edit button has always been an odd choice, considering its central place in much of internet culture.

Many of its 326 million users have approached the problem with an awkward solution: Delete a tweet they'd want to edit and send a new one. Though that process works, it removes all responses to the original tweet. And in the case of public figures, like President Donald Trump, deleting an even errant tweet might violate the records-keeping rules.

Twitter's not the only company that's struggled to bring a seemingly basic function to its users. Facebook waited for more than a decade to add a dislike button to its social network, which counts nearly 2.3 billion people using it each month. In Facebook's case, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he didn't want to encourage negative activity. Ultimately, Facebook offered a series of emoji to help convey emotions ranging from happy, sad, surprised and angry.

For its part, Twitter's been "thinking" about editing for a long time. In 2016, Dorsey tweeted a response saying the company's been considering it, possibly with a 5 minute window to correct mistakes. 

He now says he's also reconsidering how prominently follower counts are featured on the site for each user.

"It is actually incentivizing you to increase that number. That may have been right 12 years ago, but I don't think it is right today," he said. "I think what is more important is the number of meaningful conversations you're having on the platform. How many times do you receive a reply?"

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