Twitter has made a small update that's left many avid users scratching their heads--to put it lightly.
A post on the Twitter blog explains the situation. Previously, Twitter users had been able to choose between two settings for viewing the feed of accounts that they follow: to turn on "@-replies" from members whom they follow directed to members whom they don't follow, or to leave those off and hence see fewer "tweets" that may not be relevant to them personally.
So, if I follow Twitter user @rafe, but I don't follow Twitter user @josh (sorry, dude), and I selected the second option in my Twitter settings, it would not show up in my Twitter homepage feed if @rafe posted a tweet that said "@josh: Why did you eat all that pizza I ordered?"
Now Twitter has opted to stop giving users the choice, and is automatically not displaying @-replies directed to people you don't follow. You can still see them on individual members' profiles, but they don't come to your attention in your main Twitter feed.
Twitter called this a "small settings update" on Tuesday, and explained that "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."
But many active Twitter users have retorted that seeing replies sent to people they don't follow is a way that they meet new contacts on the microblogging service--and that Twitter is effectively blocking communication. None too pleased, they've set up a hashtag (Twitter's equivalent of a keyword) called "#fixreplies" to further the conversation on Twitter.
On Wednesday morning, "#fixreplies" was the top "trending topic" on Twitter, and new Twitter Search results for the term are coming in by the dozen.
User revolts are common on popular social networks--just look at the Digg DMCA snafu or pretty much any Facebook redesign--but this is the first time that Twitter has had to deal with a big one. And it's in a difficult spot right now.
Traffic has exploded recently in the wake of an Oprah Winfrey seal of approval (among other things), but these millions of new users aren't loyalists yet. There are already signs that Twitter users may be even more fickle than the average social-network member. A small move to tick them off could be a serious blow to the service.
It'll be interesting to see how Twitter handles this one.