November 11, 2009, 9:07 AM — Twitter's new Retweet functionality is rolling out to users this week. I don't have it yet; I just got Twitter's new Notification functionality last night. At least I think it was last night. To be perfectly honest I don't visit twitter.com very often. I wonder if that is about to change. Notifications, I'm surprised to say, make twitter.com quite a bit more useful. Once I did have reason to open the site, I found myself going back to that browser tab whenever I saw that '(1)' [indicating one new tweet has arrived] pop up in the title, rather than alt-tabbing over to my twitter client.
What I thought was going to be an insignificant change wound up subtly changing the way I use Twitter. Now granted I still want a dedicated client for those times when Twitter is a primary focus (like getting caught up after being offline for a while) but for 'twitter maintenance mode' the website now suffices.
So back to Retweet. Apparently some people like the new feature, some don't. Basically we lose some control with the Official Retweet system, in that we can't add to or edit the tweets we're retweeting. On the other hand, we gain some control, in that we can opt-out of seeing Retweets from specific users. And we get less repetition, because if a bunch of people Retweet the same thing, we'll only see it once. That's good for cutting down on the spamminess of some Retweets, but it could be seen as a negative since you can get a sense of the 'value' of a tweet based on how many of your friends are Retweeting it. The more my friends retweet something, the more likely I am to pay attention to it. You can read more about Official Retweets and why they work the way they do at Ev William's blog. It's a good read.
Personally I'm just anxious to get my account enabled and see what the reality of the experience is like. As I said, I didn't think Notifications were any big deal until I started seeing them in action. On the other hand, I thought Lists were going to be a big deal, but in practice I haven't really been using them (yet, at least). I can't help but wonder if Twitter-the-company will be able to lure us off our clients and over to Twitter-the-website. Will users even take advantage of this new retweet feature, or will we keep doing it the old-fashioned way? We Twitter users are sometimes known to be resistant to change. Guess we'll see.