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I know it’s passé to want more features out of Twitter because the added complexity would just ruin it, but this isn’t so much a feature wish list as a feature-adjustment wish list.

Plaintext SMS, meet hypertext. Markdown offers the best of both worlds. Prettying up Twitter’s web/IM/RSS/JSON output with a tiny subset of Markdown’s span elements would make a world of difference. *Emphasis*, **strong emphasis**, and even [better looking links]( would be worth the measly couple of characters spent using them. Images are obviously verboten, and block-level elements a waste of time in messages with a 140 character limit, but the inline elements fit the bill nicely. Heck, Twitter itself doesn’t even need to do this… Twitterrific & Co could already be doing this.
Reply Targeting
A recent Twitter addition has been the official embrace of the ‘reply’ message. That is, a message beginning with @Username is thought to address a particular user, albeit publicly viewable where a ‘direct’ (private) message would break the flow of conversation.
This has been happening a long time. It predates the web! But Twitter’s adoption of the convention as an official feature was as simple as adding a link to announce that Message X was in reply to User Y’s latest message. Sometimes this screws up, and the mile-a-minute action-packed adventure that is Twitter means you end up ‘replying’ to a message that isn’t relevant. Your link is stale and out of context. Something needs fixing.
A technologically-feasible solution would be to extend the @Reply convention to allow status IDs as well as user IDs, so @#16950751 would reply specifically to that ‘tweet’, and could be made minutes, hours, days from now. The reply would never be stale.
Unfortunately it’s not a workable solution without further tweaking. The numbers are ugly, and in places where the in-reply-to links aren’t visible (SMS, IM, Twitterrific) the whole scheme would be incomprehensible. Translate the @StatusID to an @Username in the message text, though, and the process is invisible.
It’s a power-nerd feature, true. But I don’t hesitate to say a lot of Twitter users are nerds already, and client apps like Twitterrific could easily make it accessible to Joe Blow. People who didn’t plan to exploit it would never have to work around it.
But I’ve just damned the feature by suggesting it isn’t worth the effort of implementing, since so few would use it. Maybe something lower-impact…
Permalinks in Context
Addressing the same problem in a way that doesn’t impact user input at all, permalink pages (like the one I linked above) could contain more of the conversation leading up to the moment of postage. A time-slice of a user’s friends list rather than a lonely, out-of-context tweet permalink. Not even the entire friends list need be sampled, just the last half-dozen tweets from any @Replied usernames, and suddenly just-missed-it link staleness goes out the door.
@Reply SMS Forwarding
I’ve disabled almost all of Twitter’s mobile features on my account. Sure, I still post from my phone when I’m on the go, but I got sick of receiving 200 SMSes per day pretty quickly and set it to forward only Direct messages to my mobile.
Direct messages are pretty rare, though. People tend only to use them for things that are actually private, in my experience, so the vast majority of inter-twitter communication is carried out with @Replies. It’d be nice if these were sent to my mobile, so I can participate in my own conversations when I’ve left my computer behind.
They’re a funny beast, these @Replies, which is maybe why the majority of this feature-tweaking wish list has focused on them. Half direct message, half public update, they straddle the line uncomfortably. Right now they lean more to the public update side of the fence… I’d like to see them behave more like direct messages that happen to be world-readable.