Rumor or Not, Twitter Needs a Tweet-Editing Feature

As features go, it'd be a no-brainer

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Matthew Keys cites three unnamed Twitter employees as saying that everyone’s favorite bird-themed social network may finally be getting a feature that’d let people edit tweets after they’ve been sent.

Since none of this is official yet, it should still be treated as a rumor, but Keys says according to these sources and documents they provided to him, “the new Twitter feature would look something like this”:

Once a user publishes a tweet, an ‘edit’ feature will be present for a limited amount of time [Twitter is still currently working out the length of time the feature would be available]. The feature would allow a user to make ‘slight changes’ to the contents of a tweet, such as removing a word, correcting a typo or adding one or two additional words.

An edit could only be performed once per tweet. Once the edit is made, it would be immediately visible on that user’s Twitter feed. The edit would also show up on the feed of anyone who republished the tweet using Twitter’s built-in ‘retweet’ feature.

If this is how such a feature eventually shakes out, it’ll be good news and long overdue. Spend all day watching Twitter, especially using an automatically updating solution like TweetDeck, and you’ll no doubt notice tweets with typos in them that appear in your feed for a few seconds, disappear abruptly when deleted, and then reappear a minute or so later as a new tweet with the correct info.

You also may notice certain publications sending out tweets with a phrase like “correct link” in them in order to make up for an erroneous tweet that was sent out before it (last I checked, our policy here at TIME was to not delete tweets — to send out new ones correcting the old ones instead).

For both of these kinds of cases — typos and incorrect links — a quick edit feature would make a world of difference, especially if the corrections updated throughout all the retweets cascading from the original (of course, manual retweets wouldn’t get updated, but Twitter’s been urging people to use the built-in retweeting function for quite a while now).

As Keys points out, the challenge here is to make sure such a system isn’t abused. What happens if a tweet goes viral and the original tweeter decides to edit the tweet entirely? “Twitter doesn’t want a user to post a news story, accumulate a large amount of retweets, and then change the tweet to display a promotion or advertisement,” writes Keys. He further contends that Twitter is working on some sort of fancy algorithm to detect whether or not the intention of the original tweet is changed, and perhaps a limit to the number of words that can be altered.

However, the simplest solution seems like it’d be to put a time limit on edits — say 30 seconds or so. That gives the original tweeter enough time to check to make sure any links are working correctly and more than enough time to spot typos that need correcting. Tweeters who abused such a feature would hopefully lose enough followers in the process to make trying to game the system a fruitless endeavor.

Again, this is still in the rumor phase, but here’s to hoping it sees the light of day. As far as new features go, this should be a no-brainer.