Posted March 21, 2014 5:20 pm by with 2 comments

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the-at-signTwitter may have 230 million monthly active users but new users aren’t signing up as fast as they used to – that’s a fact everyone agrees on. Why the slow down and how to fix it are two points no one can agree on and it’s got to be making Twitter’s head honchos very nervous.

One thing that comes up again and again is that the average person doesn’t understand Twitter. At a glance, it seems like a massive list of unrelated thoughts with a heavy dose of text speak and random symbols. To solve this problem, Twitter is working on becoming more Facebook. . . I mean. . mainstream. That might include removing the ‘@’ option and the hashtag so the site looks less intimating to the uninformed user.

Phooey, is what I say.

If you want to bake, you have to learn how to read a recipe. We weren’t all born knowing the difference between a Tsp and a Tbsp. Is it really impossible for people to learn how to use the @ symbol? As for hashtags? No big deal. If you don’t get it, you don’t use it. For me, the bigger issue is the issue that makes Twitter unique – the short format. Because of it, people had to write in text speak and code. Don’t like it? Send an email.

A lot of the buzz is coming from Buzzfeed. A reporter posted this quote from Twitter’s Head Of News Vivian Schiller.


Schiller then came on and denied what had been said:



But it now looks like Twitter has removed the ‘@’ symbol from replies on test versions of the Android app.

Question! Does that mean you can’t reply anymore or does it mean that the reply is somehow coded in the message. If it’s coded, then the reply-ee will still get a notice saying someone has responded. But, if you’re a business, using that @ to link your Tweet to a popular player then you’re done and done.

Removing the @ and hashtag options from Twitter won’t change things much for the average user. But both of those symbols are part of the social media marketer arsenal. Removing them could mean less visibility – you know, kind of like being a Page owner on Facebook.

What do you think? Trouble in Twitter land or a lot of talk over nothing?

  • I would say that it’s a lot of talk about nothing.

    The fact that Twitter is not reciprocal – people you follow need not follow you back – makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It can be disconcerting for the average user when tweets deemed clever get no engagement. Removing @ and # only takes away from the folks who use it effectively…

  • Russell Davies

    The obvious benefit is the extra characters available but I can also see benefit for new users looking at a mess of characters and trying to work out what’s going on. Having trained enough people on Twitter now, I can tell you it definitely puts users off when they see a messy post with shortened words and odd symbols.