Yesterday, Twitter decided to disable the configuration setting allowing you to see all tweets from all people you follow, forcing all users to the default setting of filtering out tweets which are "@replies" to people who aren't on your followers list.
Today, they have offered a small apology, informing us that for "serious technical reasons" the setting either had to go or be entirely rebuilt.
I'm a little confused here. Let me go over the setting and what it means from a technical perspective as I understand it. There were three options:
See all tweets posted by all users you follow. [The setting I preferred, now unavailable]
Hide any tweets posted by users you follow which begin with "@name".
Hide any tweets posted by users you follow which begin with "@name" unless name is a user you follow. [The previous default setting, now the only option.]
The first sounds less technically complicated than the last . . . but maybe when they added the feature to do the last and added the option setting to select between them they did it in a braindead way which got seriously complicated as the service grew or something. Or perhaps there's some technical complication I'm unaware of (but which is completely nonobvious).
Now there are lots of good reasons that the last was the default option (mostly that seeing everything can be really noisy, especially if you follow @stephenfry. It can be confusing or weird to see half of a conversation. It means you're loading more tweets, which means more load on that part of the servers.
There are also good reasons that I really liked seeing those half conversations. Often they were interesting, and sometimes I discovered new interesting people by seeing that someone was having a conversation with them.
I'm glad Twitter is responding to the feedback on their blog, and I'm hopeful that this means they'll actually find a way to bring back the feature I liked, but I'd like to know more about why it had to go and why they can't put things back the way they were until they figure out a solution to their technical problems. Maybe the extra load on the servers would act as an incentive to get it done.
Oh, one last thing. 2% of your userbase may be a small percentage, but it's still a huge number of users. If, every time you consider a feature, you decide that only 2% of your users use it, so it's therefore ok to simply drop the feature without coming up with a way to let those users configure things the way they want to, it won't be long before you've angered your entire userbase. And switching from "you can configure it to work either way" to "you have to do it the way the 98% prefer" is like a slap in the face, because the ability to configure it was demonstrably a part of the codebase until they took it away.