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Farewell typos! Twitter unveils an edit button

Sept. 1, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 1, 2022 at 12:52 p.m.

The Twitter icon on a cellphone.  (Dreamstime)
The Twitter icon on a cellphone. (Dreamstime)
By Kate Conger New York Times

Begone typos and grammar mistakes! Begone fat-fingered auto corrected slip-ups and textual despair! The edit button is coming to Twitter.

On Thursday, after countless pleas from many of its more than 237 million users, some people will start being able to click a button on the social media service to edit a tweet after they have posted it. It has only been about 15 years, nine months and 22 days since they started asking for that ability.

Since Twitter was unveiled in 2006, the basics of using it have been simple and constant: You wrote a tweet, you posted it – and then you dealt with the consequences. There were no take-backs on the timeline.

That makes the edit button perhaps the biggest shift at the social media service since 2017, when Twitter increased the character limit for messages to 280 characters from 140.

Twitter’s commitment to first drafts made it a destination for online brawls and hot takes. But people have often regretted their choice of words, or noticed a misspelling just after posting a tweet.

As Twitter grew from a niche service to a global platform, more users began demanding a way to edit their posts. They complained. They begged. They raged. Some made typos in their tweets asking for an edit button to correct their typos.

Even Elon Musk, the billionaire who has been locked in a battle over whether to stick with a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, has seemed to favor an edit button.

Twitter didn’t budge.

The company argued that there was something noble in leaving mistakes on display. A nefarious user could change a tweet after it had already been shared widely, swapping a benign message for a misleading one. Someone who had retweeted a statement might miss the update, inadvertently broadcasting a tweet they no longer agreed with.

But more recently, Twitter began reconsidering an edit button as it tried to grow its service by attracting people who might be more careful with their words.

In 2020, Twitter rolled out Fleets, an ephemeral feature that deleted users’ posts after 24 hours. That didn’t catch on and was axed. This week, the company introduced Circles, a feature that lets people post messages to a smaller subset of 150 followers.

Maybe letting people correct their mistakes might reduce their stage fright, too.

“We’re hoping that with the availability of Edit Tweet, tweeting will feel more approachable and less stressful,” Twitter said in a statement. “You should be able to participate in the conversation in a way that makes sense to you.”

The edit button will be granted to Twitter employees first for internal testing, and then to users of its subscription service, Twitter Blue. The company eventually – though it did not specify when – plans to give everyone the option to alter their tweets.

To prevent the edit button from becoming a favorite among disinformation spreaders, Twitter has added safeguards. Users will be allowed to make changes for only 30 minutes after their original tweet is posted. After an edit, the tweet will bear a label to show it has been modified. Clicking the label will let viewers see the history of the edits.

So those pesky typos will be only mostly gone. But they will certainly be less obvious – and perhaps a little less embarrassing.

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