Twitter Gears up for Wider Release of Reply Downvotes to Better Understand User Response
Twitter's new reply downvotes feature could be made accessible to more users very soon, according to reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, who recently discovered this welcome screen in the app's back-end code.
The new intro display, as shown above, explains how reply downvotes operate — which aren't intended to be a dislike choice per se, but rather a measure of how useful each tweet reply is and what it adds, or doesn't, to the overall user experience.
During the last few months, Twitter has been testing reply downvotes with a limited group of users, prompting a slew of questions about how it could be used and what it might imply for tweet engagement.
Back in July, Twitter explained to SMT:
"We're hoping to better understand what people believe are relevant replies, and how that matches up to what Twitter suggests as most the relevant replies under a Tweet."
Upvotes and downvotes will not be visible to the public, and Twitter claims that they will not affect the ranking of individual replies, at least not in the short term.
Then again, what's the point of all of this?
They might be able to make tweet answers more interesting in the future. When you look at the answers to a viral tweet, you may notice a slew of scam tweets, individuals complaining about their accounts being hacked or penalized, or requests for assistance for a variety of reasons.
Perhaps focusing on the best discussion prompts and downranking the others would make the reply threads more engaging, and if Twitter could better emphasize the most responding tweets in each, that would drive even more interaction around each issue, and get more users tweeting more often.
At the same time, it may be perplexing. Twitter's reply downvotes aren't a vote of support or disapproval of each individual remark or comment, but that detail may be difficult to express if the feature is rolled out more widely.
But perhaps that's the goal - as a wide research tool, Twitter will be able to gain more insight into the many parts that users react badly to in the app, and express that they want to see less of in their feeds through downvotes. That information might then be used to steer the platform's future algorithmic and other initiatives, and Twitter has allowed itself some leeway in how such data is utilized by not linking any specific action to the use of its downvote option.
It could prove to be a useful research tool in this regard, even if it isn't tied to any specific outcome. Perhaps, as a result, Twitter will have a better understanding of user preferences for future development.
Even if people intentionally or unintentionally misuse it, it could wind up being a beneficial tool.
It appears that we'll find out soon enough in either case. We'll keep you informed of any developments.