Twitter testing Facebook-like reply threading and status indicators

It's trying to be more conversational. But do you want everyone knowing when you're online?

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
Twitter Social Media

Twitter is testing out new features to attempt to feel more conversational.


Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Friday touted two new features the platform is "playing with" in an effort to make it more conversational. They're called reply threading and presence.

Reply threading shows responses as nested, indented tweets, similar to Facebook or Reddit. Some replies are color-coded, too.


Twitter is testing out reply-threading (note the indented, color-coded reply) and presence (note the green dot indicating the user is online). 

Twitter/Sara Haider/Screenshot by CNET

"At the moment we have purple indicating OT (original Tweeter!) and blue indicating 'you,'" wrote Sara Haider, the company's head of product, in response to a tweet she posted seeking feedback on the features being tested. Dorsey retweeted that tweet.

Presence is essentially a status indicator -- for now a green circle in your profile picture -- signaling "that you're online and looking for conversation," Haider said. Facebook Messenger and Instagram offer a similar feature.

Haider was clear in pointing out that the features are rough and all about making it "feel more conversational here … still early and iterating."

Initial feedback from the Twitterverse seems lukewarm on reply threating and wary of the presence feature. Users want assurances that they'll be able to turn off the presence feature.

"Knowing when someone is online will have much bigger negative effects than positive ones," user Charles Arthur tweeted in response to Haider's post. "Pile-ons, targeted attacks, all that sort of stuff. Twitter works best because it's asynchronous. It's not your 'friends' like Messenger."

Twitter started grouping replies to tweets together in June 2015. In December, it launched a feature that lets users thread their own tweets.

Twitter didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

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