In its developer Google Group, Twitter has just made the announcement that it is releasing an early preview of a brand new API: The retweeting API. And that’s not all, Twitter is in the process of completely revamping its retweet functionality.
From the looks of it, this could mean some pretty big changes on Twitter. As you can see in the mock-ups above and below, the retweet (written as “RT” in most tweets) is no longer a part of the actual tweet itself, but rather is a link below the tweet. While that certainly is a cleaner way of doing things, it will be interesting to see if this makes retweeting less or more enticing. And it could potentially help users find new people to follow (more on that below).
But as co-founder Biz Stone notes on the Twitter blog, the current method of retweeting on twitter.com is a cumbersome process of copying and pasting. They want to change that. He calls this “Phase One” of “Project Retweet,” and notes that it is going out to developers first so they can be ready for the change, and indicates that it’s not quite ready for prime-time:We are still sketching out exactly how this feature and its API counterpart works. Sharing our thoughts before launching means developers will have the opportunity to prepare their applications. In a few weeks or so we’ll launch the feature on our web site and because app developers had a chance to prepare, it should become available across most of the Twitter ecosystem about the same time. This way, we can all enjoy retweeting—however we choose to access Twitter.
And the ramifications of this are potentially even larger. With the new method, all of your friends will see the original tweet you’re retweeting in their timeline (unless they have this option turned off). So if I’m not following@ev (Twitter co-founder Evan Williams) in the example that Stone drew to the right, I will still see his tweet in my stream because Stone retweeted it. This seems like a great idea for new follower discovery.
Stone notes that the new retweet look will launch to a limited group of users first for a set period of time so the team can test how it will work on the system. It will then get a wider roll-out in a few weeks.
Writes Twitter developer Marcel Molina in the Twitter developer Google Group about the new API:
Retweeting has become one of the cultural conventions of the Twitter experience. It’s yet another example of Twitter’s users discovering innovative ways to use the service. We dig it. So soon it’s going to become a natively supported feature on twitter.com. It’s looking like we’re only weeks away from being ready to launch it on our end. We wanted to show the community of platform developers the API we’ve cooked up for retweeting so those who want to support it in their applications would have enough time to have it ready by launch day. We were planning on exposing a way for developers to create a retweet, recognize retweets in your timeline and display them distinctively amongst other tweets. We’ve also got APIs for several retweet timelines: retweets you’ve created, retweets the users you’re following have created, and your tweets that have been retweeted by others.