August 15, 2008

Twitter Implements Threaded Comments, Sort Of

By Jesse Stay of Stay N' Alive (

Today Twitter made a quiet announcement on their developer mailing list that could have profound implications. On the mailing list, Alex Payne, a leading developer at Twitter gave the following announcement:

"I'm happy to announce a minor change to the API that should have a major impact on the Twitter community. The /statuses/update method now takes an optional parameter: in_reply_to_status_id. As you might guess, this allows API clients to specify which status a status to be posted is in reply to, rather than our system assuming that it's in reply to the last message posted by the user specified by "@username". "

What does this mean? Essentially now any Twitter client can now associate another post as a reply to another existing post. This means that Twhirl or TweetDeck can allow a user to post a normal status update, and provide a "+" sign underneath (or "@" similar to the Twhirl FriendFeed client), and a new post can be appended as a reply to the previous post.

What's very interesting though is that Twitter is not requiring "in_reply_to_status_id" requests to have an "@" symbol in them. Therefore, this could very well mean the death of "@'s" on Twitter as more and more clients begin to fully implement the API call. Twitter seems to be breaching FriendFeed territory on this one, if they could just start allowing better aggregation.

I expect to fully see new implementations of this feature very soon - the request is quite simple, and would just take some simple UI enhancements. Twhirl I know has these built in already to their FriendFeed client - they would just need to utilize the same code and they would have it in the Twitter client. Now the question becomes, will Twitter's API limits allow this feature to work? It will be interesting to watch.