August 13, 2009

Twitter to Embrace Retweeting, Releases Developer Preview API

For many people using Twitter, the act of retweeting is a major part of how they help share information. Popular Web sites, such as Tweetmeme, have developed to show the most popular tweeted items each day, frequently highlighting the largest Twitter accounts. And while the act of retweeting hadn't always had official blessing from Twitter, who has literally watched the system develop underneath their feet, the company looks to be fully embracing the activity - promising to make it natively supported on the service's Web site, and today, introducing a preview to developers that will help them take advantage of the new functionality.

In a posting to the Twitter API Announcement Google Group, Marcel Molina, a member of Twitter's Platform Team, explained that not only is the company only "weeks away from being ready to launch" support on their end, but they want developers to have enough time to prepare their apps to launch alongside Twitter when that day comes. It's a great move in light of frequent developer complaints that have said Twitter often makes changes without giving them advanced notice.

Screenshots accompanying the note show that not only will you see that items have been retweeted, but you will now have language that makes "Retweet" as easy as "Reply", just by hovering over the individual message.

Interestingly, the screen capture shows that if an item has multiple retweets, that you can see the IDs of who has retweeted the individual message. That could get very busy for the most popular accounts, so I assume Twitter has considered what would happen if a note gets a dozen or even hundreds of forwards.

Not only is Twitter embracing the retweet, something I personally have avoided for the most part, but they have done so in a way that makes the retweets visually different than standard notes, so you don't wonder about the originator, or if you did "RT" correctly. The new process should be available in a few weeks, and in applications around the same time, if developers get busy.

The company has also added a note to their blog:
Project Retweet: Phase One

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