Editing tweets creates complexity. Here are the details of how it works.

You can edit tweets now! But it’s not even clear what that means.

It’s been nearly 16 years since Twitter users began asking for an edit button, and seven years since Twitter’s then-CEO says Kim Kardashian that an edit button was a “good idea”. It seemed like it would never happen, but Twitter was finally dragged, kicking and screaming, into fulfilling this simple request. Except it’s not a simple request at all.

Edit button skeptics have long voiced their criticisms of the idea. Besides the hardline view that the tweets are final and that’s what they are good for, there were practical concerns. These are best expressed as simulations: what if a powerful person edits an offensive tweet and unfairly edits the recording? What if someone hits “Like” on the original tweet, but doesn’t feel the same about the edited version? What happens to tweet replies and quotes if the main thrust of the original tweet has changed?

So here are some answers. Note: I performed my tests on the desktop version of Twitter.

How can I edit a tweet?

Currently, the only people who can edit tweets are subscribers to Blue Twitter, which costs $5 per month. If you subscribe and click the hamburger button in the upper right corner of any of your tweets on your desktop, the legendary “Edit Tweet” button will automatically materialize in the drop-down menu, but only if you do so within 30 minutes of posting said tweet. After 30 minutes, your typos are locked forever.

Twitter Blue’s elite hamburger menu drop-down menu
Credit: Mike Pearl/Mashable

The first time you use the feature, you’ll get this helpful warning that since Twitter Blue users in some countries don’t yet have access to the edit button, you might drop clues as to where you are. find by editing tweets. It would definitely make me think if I didn’t want other users to know my location.

A Twitter pop-up notifying the user that the edit function "could reveal which country you are in."


Credit: Mike Pearl/Mashable

Why can’t I edit my tweet, even though I pay for the feature?

Some tweets cannot be edited, even within the 30 minute window.

First of all, you are only allowed five edits. If you just can’t get a tweet the way you want and you keep editing and editing, once you edit number five and click “update” you’ll get a warning that you are about to be cut.

A warning from Twitter, indicating that the user is on their last edit.

You seem to have had enough.
Credit: Mike Pearl/Mashable

After that, the edit button for that tweet will disappear.

You also can’t edit your replies to other people’s tweets.

According to my tests, the edit button will also disappear on a tweet if you reply to that tweet yourself and start creating a thread. It’s the original tweet at the top of the thread will not be editable, and neither will replies.

Will I keep my likes if I edit a tweet?

Yes.

But there will be a publicly available version history of the tweet with timestamps. This documents which version of the tweet earned each of them.

A version history of a tweet showing that the latest version actually received no likes.

Scintillating content earning massive engagements.
Credit: Mike Pearl/Mashable

So if, for example, you like someone’s tweet saying “I like this tweet if you like eating nachos”, and they then edit the tweet to say “I like this tweet if you like to eat trash”, there is a public record of what you were actually expressing affection for with your fellow man.

The version history will also show which version of a tweet a user replied to.

What happens if someone retweets or quotes a tweet and it’s edited to change the original meaning?

I ethically tested this by tweeting a request for quote tweets, with a warning to other users that if they quote it, I’ll change it to “Quote this tweet if you like eating garbage”. A helpful follower tweeted quickly, and I edited the tweet as promised. The resulting quote tweet retained my original tweet text, now gray instead of black, with an additional note from Twitter that there was a new version.

Clicking anywhere in the quoted tweet allows any user to see the edited version, but there is no danger that the new version will appear to be approved by the user who quoted it.

The downside is that the edited version may be better than the original, and the user may wish they had quoted it on Twitter, but they don’t have the option to update.

The same thing happens if someone retweets. The old version remains retweeted, with the same note informing readers that there is a new version.

The user can retweet the edited version if they wish, and their timeline will contain both versions. In my test, when a user did this, the RT count for the tweet remained at 1.

What happens if I receive push notifications for an account’s tweets and that account edits a tweet?

As far as I know, I don’t have followers enthusiastic enough to have push notifications set for my tweets, but according to Hank Greenwhose account is much, much more popular than mine, they get a new notification for every change, so big accounts: consider yourself warned.

Can someone link to an older version of an edited tweet?

Yes. In addition to version history, tweets with different versions have different URLs. The original gray version is therefore in no way deleted from the permanent record. Replies, retweets, and likes are disabled for gray tweets, but the share button still works.

A gray tweet with its share button still working.

You can still share this important document with others.
Credit: Mike Pearl/Mashable

This was a pre-test, and there may be all sorts of holes in this feature that can prank people or cause real damage. If those holes exist, however, we haven’t found them yet.

Sharon D. Cole