The Twitter DM Fail Or Whale?

Twitter’s move to open up direct messaging move makes sense, could make a lot of sense, but it comes with some real risks.

First, it’s confusing. Twitter messages have long been public while DMs have been private. This is still the case, of course, but the line is even more blurred now and this will probably be more confusing to regular users, at least at first. If you thought DM Fails were prevalent before, just wait!

Second, the airline use case Twitter is touting makes a ton of sense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed (and later unfollowed) an airline simply to be able to DM them to help with some issue. This gets rid of that song and dance, which is good.

Third, if Twitter DMs are indeed secure, it’s feasible that Twitter could make the product even more compelling. A whole host of services are becoming more commonplace for lightweight text-based interactions, like payments. Twitter DM could play here.

Fourth, the real risk is that this becomes analogous to Facebook’s “Other” inbox within Messenger. You may not even realize this exists, and if so, that’s a good thing. It’s literally the other tab in Facebook’s messaging product (viewable on the web) that serves as a “catch all” for the messages from people you aren’t connected with. At least among the people I know, it’s an absolute hellhole, cesspool, viper-pit, etc of truly awful content. It’s almost always either spam or far worse. Twitter needs to avoid this when opening up DMs — sounds like they have a plan around banning. We’ll see. At least it’s opt-in.

I’ve long thought Twitter’s DM service was extremely under-utilized. It’s such an interesting concept for a graph — dual opt-in. This changes the dynamic, of course. But there’s a chance Twitter could make this interesting.

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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