Twitter’s Set to Free-Up Unused Twitter Handles, Add Up-Front View Counts to Tweets

It’s Friday, so it’s time to check in on what’s happening at Elon’s ‘Twitter 2.0’ this week.

Musk has slowed his declarations of late, with Twitter’s upcoming $8 verification plan still in development, and other updates being worked through by Twitter’s reduced engineering team.

But there have been a few, smaller updates announced that Twitter now has in the works, which could be of interest.

First off, Musk says that Twitter will soon free up dormant accounts, making many @handles available once again:

Twitter will soon start freeing the name space of 1.5 billion accounts

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022

Musk flagged this a few weeks back, noting that Twitter just needed to work out how to deal with accounts of deceased users that should possibly be memorialized in some way. It’s unclear if that’s still part of the plan, but it seems like a whole lot of Twitter handles are about to be re-released back to users.

So if there’s a handle that you’ve had your eye on, and it’s been inactive forever, it may be worth paying attention, and seeing if you can snap it up once the shift is officially announced.

On another front, Musk has reiterated that Twitter will soon show view counts on tweets, as a means to highlight engagement levels in the app.

Tweets will show view count in a few weeks, just like videos do. Twitter is much more alive than people think.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022

Elon says that people’s tweets are actually reaching a lot more people than they probably think. The view here is that if Twitter can highlight the true levels of tweet exposure, that will show users that there’s more activity than their like and retweet counts would suggest, which could get people tweeting more often, because they’ll know that they’re getting some attention, even if people don’t feel compelled to interact.

But I don’t know.

Twitter’s actually experimented with this a few times in the past, notably in 2014, 2017, and in September this year, when it launched a live test of the view count display with some users.

Twitter view count

As you can see in this example, the update will display actual tweet reach metrics, which you can already view in the separate tweet analytics tab, up front, alongside likes and retweet counts.

So, instead of thinking that people are seeing your tweets and not engaging with them because they’re just not interested, you’d actually know this for sure. Which is probably not the intended aim of this display, but it’s hard to see how knowing that 2k people saw your tweet, and none of them engaged, might act as a motivator for you to keep sharing your thoughts in the app.

Which is likely why Twitter’s never gone with this in the past – but under Elon Musk, who’s clearly a very big fan of attention, they’re trying it again, because for Elon, knowing that a million people are being shown his comments is a big deal.

It might not be for everyone else – but then again, maybe by knowing that you are actually reaching a lot more people than the like and retweet figures suggest, that will help you revise and refine your tweet approach, in order to improve engagement and response.

App researcher Jane Manchun Wong has shared two images of what the new view counts might look like (left, in the app and right, on the web), based on current testing:

Twitter view counts

On another front, Elon has also spent considerable time tweeting about the ‘Twitter Files’ expose that he’s overseeing, in which he’s working with selected journalists to uncover perceived political bias and suppression under previous management at the app.

Which I’m not going into. The concerns highlighted in these reports are, at the least, being sensationalized via selective reporting, while the lack of access to the full data chain makes it impossible to clarify exactly what’s happened in each case, and how Twitter staff came to their decisions.

It’s seemingly another way to spark more attention, and get more people using Twitter – which, evidently, is working for Musk, who keeps saying that Twitter usage it at all-time highs. As such, they’ll likely keep pumping out attention-grabbing headlines and stories as a PR exercise.

But I will say that the Twitter Files reports haven’t revealed anything new, or necessarily nefarious, as yet.  

Though they could result in more insight about restrictions impacting your tweets:

Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022

That could be handy, and would provide more transparency moving forward, which could also help to ensure that users better understand any such restrictions, and help keep the conversation more civil and welcoming.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but really, the next big step is the re-launch of Twitter’s $8 verification plan, which will either see massive take-up and be a savior for the app, or it won’t.

We’ll likely find out soon.

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