At long last, Twitter is working on an edit button. For years, Twitter users have clamored for an edit button, most often to fix a pesky typo. And for the longest time, it seemed like the feature would remain something akin to a Twitter user’s white whale. However, on April 5, Twitter’s communications account announced—via tweet, of course—that an edit button is on the way. (We first saw this at The Verge.) In the tweet, Twitter Comms said that the edit feature has been in development since 2021 and the company will begin testing the feature with Twitter Blue users, who pay a subscription fee for access to premium features, in the coming months.
now that everyone is asking…— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) April 5, 2022
yes, we’ve been working on an edit feature since last year!
no, we didn’t get the idea from a poll 😉
we're kicking off testing within @TwitterBlue Labs in the coming months to learn what works, what doesn’t, and what’s possible.
It’s certainly a shocking turn of events for those who rolled our eyes after seeing Twitter tease the edit button on April Fools’ Day. It is, after all, the worst day to make any sort of announcement as shenanigans are afoot. But Twitter Comms reiterated that they were not kidding about the tweet, so the joke was on all of us this year. In firmly stating the feature’s long development journey, Twitter firmly quashed any indication that an Elon Musk tweet had anything to do with the feature. (The entrepreneur recently joined the Twitter board after buying a stake in the company. He tweeted a poll asking followers if they wanted an edit button with the vote overwhelmingly in the affirmative.)
This is all extremely exciting for Twitter users tired of seeing a small spelling error or broken link mess with an otherwise perfect tweet. However, the announcement itself was fairly vague. However, Twitter’s head of consumer product Jay Sullivan further unpacked what the edit button actually means in a thread. In it, he stated that the company is looking at how to safely implement the new feature. His language, specifically regarding safety, is noteworthy given edit button detractors have long suggested that users, especially those looking to sow misinformation, might abuse the feature.
3/ Without things like time limits, controls, and transparency about what has been edited, Edit could be misused to alter the record of the public conversation. Protecting the integrity of that public conversation is our top priority when we approach this work.— Jay Sullivan (@jaysullivan) April 5, 2022
5/ This is just one feature we are exploring as we work to give people more choice and control over their Twitter experience, foster a healthy conversation, and help people be more comfortable on Twitter. These are the things that motivate us every day.— Jay Sullivan (@jaysullivan) April 5, 2022
Sullivan notes that for the most part, people want to correct small mistakes without taking the current approach, which is deleting the error-filled tweet and tweeting again with a clean copy. However, he does acknowledge the potential for abuse and misuse. He notes, “Protecting the integrity of that public conversation is our top priority when we approach this work.”
As such, it’ll probably be a while before the average Twitter user can fix a simple mistake. Sullivan indicated that Twitter will dive into all angles of the edit button, including anything adversarial. He also noted the company will seek input throughout the development process.
On the surface, this all sounds like a fairly positive way of going about things. The company taking a thorough approach is certainly preferable to launching a feature only to realize it was a terrible idea. (I’m talking about Fleets. RIP Fleets.) However, the timing of it is also curious considering the scrutiny the company is facing regarding Musk’s new role. The entrepreneur is a prolific presence on the platform, and definitely a controversial one. As both a Twitter critic and a user whose tweets have landed him in some hot water.
It’s too early to tell what Twitter’s edit button will actually look like. For instance, is there a limit to how much in a tweet a user can edit? Does the edit feature only work for tweets going forward or does it work for all tweets? Hopefully, Sullivan and Twitter will continue to share updates throughout the development process. And, of course, hopefully, our Twitter Blue pals give us the inside scoop as they access the preview feature.