If you follow social media coverage much, you’ve probably heard already through Mashable or TechCrunch: Twitter is rethinking the retweet, and integrating native API calls for retweeting into the service.
The general idea is that Twitter.com, and the myriad of third-party applications, will have retweet links that, when clicked, allow you to immediately repost the update. The tweet will be shown in your followers’ timelines as if it were from the original poster, but with a “Retweeted by username” notice underneath. (Personally, I think there needs to be a way to edit the tweet before reposting it, so you can add your own commentary.)
Until major Twitter clients add support for the new retweets, which hopefully will be pretty much immediately after the changes go live, retweets will disappear from your home timeline entirely.
We don’t want to break existing apps that don’t add retweeting support or create a confusing experience for that app’s users. So the /statuses/friends_timeline API resource will remain unchanged–i.e. retweets will *not* appear in it.
For those who *do* want to support retweets, we are adding a new (more aptly named) /statuses/home_timeline resource. This *will* include retweets. The /statuses/friends_timeline API resource will continue to be supported in version 1 of the API. In version 2 it will go away and be fully replaced by /statuses/home_timeline.
These changes will open up some interesting options. Twitter clients will be able to do things like highlight retweets in a different color, put them in a separate column (in clients like TweetDeck), or show you tweets of yours that have been retweeted recently.
It was important for us that retweets are easily differentiated visually from regular tweets. If someone you follow retweets a tweet, the original tweet will appear in your timeline whether you follow the author of the original tweet or not, just as it currently does when users use the “RT” convention. Seeing a tweet in your timeline from someone you don’t follow without being told it was shared from someone you *do* follow could be confusing. So we’re encouraging developers to be mindful of this confusion and make retweets stand out visually from regular tweets.
It will certainly take awhile to get used to the changes, and developers will have their share of work to do. (I wonder how TweetMeme will change their popular retweet button to accommodate the changes…) But one good thing will come of it at least, besides making it easier for newbies to grasp the idea of retweeting: You’ll only see a retweet once, no matter how many people you follow tweet it. This will end the sea of duplicate retweets that occur when a tweet goes crazy-viral.