Dear Twitter: Do you understand the value of your own service?

Posted by Jennifer Leggio. Jennifer Leggio, aka "Mediaphyter," writes about the "social business" side of social media - including enterprise, security and reputation issues. See her full profile and disclosure of her industry affiliations.
This afternoon Twitter announced via its blog that it is doing away with one its most critical settings: the ability to overhear your friends’ conversations with folks you may not necessarily be following. In other words, you no longer have the option to see @ replies posted by your friends to their friends. Here is a snippet:

We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

There are several things wrong with this. One-sided fragments, at times, might be challenging. That is why there is an option to turn those things on and off. However, one-sided fragments are what lead people into broader conversations, help them meet new people and build their network. I know I personally build the majority of my network — and have made some amazing friends — by overhearing these conversations.

I have to wonder which users complained about having this option. Did the existence of the checkbox frighten them? Or was it not clear as to what the option was for? Or did they not know about the option? I’ve had people before (especially during hockey season) say they get overwhelmed by my hockey conversations. I’ve mentioned that option to people before and they found it to be a godsend. But for the rest of us, especially those folks who consider themselves to be power users, this is a great disservice.

And here I go again… Twitter also needs to monetize. When you take away some of the conversational benefit, you take away some of the draw for business as well, especially brand managers. It almost kills the idea of those types of business-sponsored Twitter chats, too. It seems that with every move Twitter makes lately it is straying further and further away from a model that is relevant to the majority of its user base.

It makes me wonder, honestly, if the folks behind Twitter fully understand the value of the service they are offering. The continual pandering to celebrities and now taking an optional service away from the early adopters who bled Twitter loyalty even during the worst of the Fail Whale days. Forget a business model. Twitter, do you understand the value of your own service? And do you truly want to grow? It sure doesn’t seem that way.

Do you want this changed back? From TechCrunch:

Many Twitter users are up in arms about the change, voicing their complaints under the channel #fixreplies, which is currently the top trending term on Twitter.

UPDATE 5/13/09 10:02 a.m.: Twitter has issued another blog post about the change, citing that they are hearing the feedback loud and clear. Here’s a bit:

The engineering team reminded me that there were serious technical reasons why that setting had to go or be entirely rebuilt—it wouldn’t have lasted long even if we thought it was the best thing ever… Our product, design, user experience, and technical teams have started brainstorming a way to surface a new, scalable way to address this need.