As Twitter turns six, there's more to be doneMarch 21, 2012: 5:00 PM ET
Six years ago today, Twitter launched to the masses. But those masses are still in need of a few key features that the site doesn't yet offer. Here's our wish list.
By Daniel Roberts, reporter
FORTUNE -- Happy birthday, blue bird! Despite some rocky corporate drama, Twitter is going strong six years after its inception, with the company touting more than 140 million active users. But those users could benefit from a few capabilities that the service still doesn't offer on its main website.
To begin with, users need a way to search within a specific handle's timeline. At the moment, one can perform a keyword search on Twitter's site, but can't search for that term within an individual feed. In addition, search results are global. As Twitter is all about connecting directly with people, search ought to be deepened so that one can drill down to results just from their own friends. In addition, search only allows you to go through about three weeks of a handle's history. Users need the ability to look back at all of their own tweets, without limitation. (The inability to do so is why short-lived apps that reveal your very first tweet have proven popular.)
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By that same token, many users would like to filter out tweets containing specific keywords. Apps exist that will do this for you, but it would be nice if you could set a preference right on Twitter.com that hides all mentions, say, of a television show you haven't seen yet or a political candidate you're sick of reading about.
In addition to hiding select keywords, it would be useful to be able to hide tweets from certain users without completely unfollowing them. Again, some apps have the ability to mute certain handles, but Twitter could win big points with users by allowing them to temporarily hide tweets from someone who is going a bit crazy on a particular day or live-tweeting some event of no interest.
Finally, most surprising of all, there still isn't any way to retweet someone and add a comment of your own, short of cutting and pasting the person's missive and adding text. On mobile apps like Echofon -- or even Twitter's official app -- there is a button called "RT with comment," which, depending on the app, either places the tweet in your box, ready to go, with "RT @" before it, or puts the person's tweet into quotation marks and allows editing.
Either of these options would be better than Twitter.com's functionality, which only allows a "straight retweet," which forbids modification. Considering the other smart functions Twitter has rolled out in the recent past -- such as automatic shortening of links, notification of direct messages and the ability to upload photos directly on Twitter.com -- it's strange that the RT function is still so clunky.
Other avid users have some of their own Twitter.com wish lists. "I find myself not following as many people simply because I worry about the things I care about being drowned out by FourSquare," says Mark Johnson (@philosophygeek), CEO of Zite. "I'd like to see a smart stream; show me [in a separate or highlighted area] the tweets from people I care about who link to things I find interesting." That sounds a lot like Zite itself -- a competitor to Flipboard and other personalized magazine apps that functions like a news-curation version of Pandora, displaying stories based on a user's demonstrated likes and dislikes. Johnson adds that Twitter shouldn't count @ replies in the 140 characters. "It's a disadvantage to long names, plus it discourages putting too many @s in a tweet," he points out.
Nick Moran gets paid to tweet on behalf of The Millions (@The_Millions), a literary site with more than 100,000 followers. As someone who spends a large part of every day on Twitter, Moran would like to see the site offer more organization opportunities than it does.
"It's crazy that Twitter doesn't have a native scheduling assistant," Moran says. The ability to schedule posts for later is something that blogging platforms like WordPress and Tumblr do offer. "Because I have a day job in addition to my social media responsibilities for The Millions, I rely on TweetDeck to schedule the day's updates in advance," he says. But TweetDeck has its own limitations: "It doesn't let users view every retweet or favorite applied to one of your own tweets, so I have to go back to Twitter.com in order to check that throughout the day," Moran says. "It's a minor inconvenience, but it seems so easily remedied."
Indeed, that ethos could apply to a number of the features Twitter users still demand. But Nikhil Sethi, CEO of social ad-buying service Adaptly, is cautious about expecting new features. "A lot of consumer-facing people or non-technical people think it's so simple. They say 'Oh, I just wish I had that one feature,' but the technical people are thinking, 'If it were that easy, you'd already have it.' I applaud how far they have come in six years." Still, even Sethi is longing for some improvements. "I would like to see Twitter open up its API again," he says. (A year ago, Twitter asked developers to stop making third-party clients.) "They used to have a pretty thriving developer community, and every day on the blogs there used to be new apps created. We never see that anymore. Adding your own comment onto a retweet, that's something that any third-party should be able to offer to you. They're not allowing companies to offer that right now."
The company did not comment on what features it might roll out in the next year, but it made quite a few upgrades in the past year, including new "Activity" and "@ Connect" tabs, enabling promoted tweets on mobile, and integrating images and video into search.
Perhaps Twitter will tackle many of these other lingering issues in time for its next birthday. Or maybe it will just embrace its dead-simple interface, which many users cite as its key strength.