Twitter's latest blog post titled Small Settings Update states the following:
We've updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we've learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it's a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don't follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today's update removes this undesirable and confusing option.
In other words, before this change you simply saw all tweets posted by the people you followed. Twitter has decided that that was too complicated. So instead, now you will only see tweets posted by people you follow if they are not replies to people you don't follow…unless the tweet doesn't begin with "@userwhoyoudontfollow", in which case you will still see the tweet since it's not really a "reply", but a "mention". There, much better! Thanks for clearing that up Twitter!
I honestly don't understand the motivation behind this change. From my perspective, the less tweets I see, the less valuable Twitter is to me as a conversation and communication service. I'm not sure what problem they were trying to address here, but judging from the initial response on Twitter there's obviously a disconnect between how Twitter thinks its users use it and how they actually use it.
Luckily there is a workaround.
Later in the Twitter blog post, they reveal that "discovery" is still possible:
Spotting new folks in tweets is an interesting way to check out new profiles and find new people to follow. Despite this update, you'll still see mentions or references linking to people you don't follow. For example, you'll continue to see, "Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff" even if you don't follow @biz. We'll be introducing better ways to discover and follow interesting accounts as we release more features in this space.
In other words, while replies to people you don't follow are now hidden from you, tweets that only "mention" people you don't follow are still visible.
Let's say I am following user A but not user B. Twitter's latest change makes it so that I won't see user A's tweet "@userB Let's go to the park!". However, if user A only "mentions" user B in their tweet: "I'm going to the park with @userB", then I can still see it.
So, if you want to make sure your replies are visible to all of your followers, just make sure your replies are actually "mentions" by prefixing them with a character. Expanding on the user A / user B example above, if user A changed their tweet to read "! @userB Let's go to the park!", I'd be able to see it again since it didn't start with "@userB". It's a silly hack, but then again it's a silly feature too so I don't feel too bad using it.
I'm hoping that this was just a temporary brain fart on Twitter's part and that it will soon be fixed or that there is some hidden benefit to this feature that I'm missing. What do you think about Twitter's "Small Settings Update"?
Due to user feedback, Twitter has decided to change how replies work again. Now, you should be able to see @user replies again, regardless of where the @user is placed…unless the reply was generated by clicking on the "reply" link, in which case it's still invisible. It's really amazing how many different, but equally infuriating, ways Twitter can come up with to solve this problem. They have also went against their original claim that this was changed for simplicity sake and now admit that the change was done because of architectural limitations.