Twitter confirms it's testing a feature that allows users to more easily create "tweetstorms" - those series of connected tweets that have grown to be a popular workaround for Twitter's character count limitations. The feature, which was recently spotted in the wild, offers a new interface for composing tweets, where individual tweetstorm entries can be written one-by-one then published to Twitter in a staggered fashion with a press of a "Tweet All" button.
The existence of a tweetstorm feature was first spotted in the Twitter app's code in September, which was a hint of things to come. At the time, Twitter declined to comment on its plans for the feature or say if it would ever launch publicly.
Today, the blog Android Police reported the tweetstorm interface was popping up for some users of the Android alpha app, but said it wasn't sure about the details surrounding the tests.
Old (left) vs New (right) - Image credit: Android Police
When asked, Twitter told TechCrunch that the tweetstorm feature has been in testing in both the alpha and beta programs on iOS and Android. The version shared by Android Police has been in testing for weeks, the company said.
While the feature not yet available to everyone or for public testing, the expansion of these test hints this is something Twitter wants to bring to the public in the future.
That wouldn't be surprising. After all, the launch of a native tweetstorm feature wouldn't be the first time Twitter has taken a common behavior seen among its user base and turned it into an official product. In the past, Twitter created the @reply, the hashtag, and the RT based on patterns of user behavior that were born organically on its platform, then adopted by a sizable number of users.
The tweetstorm would easily fall into this category, too.
Years ago, the feature was used by a limited number of early adopters - like Marc Andreessen, for example - who wanted to write the equivalent of a blog post via tweets.
But today, the tweetstorm has become just another way people use Twitter.
It's also used for a number of things beyond blog-like content spread out over tweets. For example, people now use the tweetstorm to tell personal stories - even suspenseful or funny ones - connect facts surrounding breaking news, rant about politics or other issues, and more.
Even though Twitter has expanded its character count limit to 280, that hasn't eliminated the need for tweetstorms. In addition to supporting more than 280 characters by connecting tweets together, each tweet stands alone and can be shared - retweeted, replied to, etc. - on an individual basis.
For now, the new feature offers a "+" plus button on the right side of Twitter's compose screen, where you also find the buttons for adding photos, GIFs, polls and location. When tapped, the plus button allows users to enter in the tweetstorm's separate tweets on their own lines. During the writing process, you can go back and edit any individual item before it's posted.
When finished, the user taps a "Tweet All" button to share the tweetstorm with their network. Twitter automatically queues the tweets appropriately and posts them in the correct order.
Of course, the actual appearance of the tweetstorm feature may change following these beta tests.
Whether the feature's launch will be welcome is unknown. When Twitter only supported 140 characters, a tweetstorm button would have been useful. But with the expansion to 280, there is some concern that people will use the option to post much longer thoughts to Twitter, cluttering the timeline with lengthy pontifications.
Twitter did not share a timeline for the tweetstorm feature's public launch, but those who often get new Twitter features first should probably keep their eyes open.
- This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.