The birdie and the shark

Twitter isn't quite beyond jumping the shark, but it has taken a big step backward.

While I’ve been skeptical of Twitter’s direction ever since they decided they no longer cared about the developer ecosystem they created, I have to admit that I was impressed by the speed at which they rolled back an unfortunate change to their “blocking” feature. Yesterday afternoon, Twitter announced that when you block a user, that user would not be unsubscribed to your tweets. And sometime last night, they reversed that change.

I admit, I was surprised by the immediate outraged response to the change, which was immediately visible on my Twitter feed. I don’t block many people on Twitter — mostly spammers, and I don’t think spammers are interested in reading my tweets, anyway. So, my first reaction was that it wasn’t a big deal. But as I read the comments, I realized that it was a big deal: people complaining of online harassment, trolls driving away their followers, and more.

So yes, this was a big deal. And I’m very glad that Twitter has set things right. In the past years, Twitter has seemed to me to be jumping the shark in small steps, rather than a single big leap. If you think about it, this is how it always happens. You don’t suddenly wake up and find you’ve become the evil empire; it’s a death of a thousand cuts. Watching Twitter jump the shark in slow motion has saddened me. And it’s also sad, in a different way, that we have to congratulate a large web company for listening to its users — seems that listening to users should be, well, normal. I’m much less sad this morning.

Twitter has proven that they can and will listen to their users. Not only did they listen, they acted: they didn’t indulge in a round of corporate bluster, or restore vaguely like the original behavior hidden under an inscrutable pile of personalization options. They did the simplest and most responsible thing possible: they restored the original “block” behavior.

Congratulations, Twitter. You did the right thing. And you did it quickly. I don’t think you’re off the shark, but you’ve taken a big step backward.

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