Twitter Needs to Fix Its DM Search
As a freelance journalist, I rely a lot on Twitter direct messages. I use them to interview sources, chat with acquaintances, network, and gossip. And my DM habits are nothing compared with some journalists I know, who essentially lean on the product as an addendum to email and Slack. Twitter DMs, for a lot of white-collar media workers, are a further diffusion of how we communicate with each other. We are surrounded by messages, coming and going from seemingly a thousand different locations.
But Twitter DMs are missing one critical feature: search. Or, more accurately, content search. In 2019, the company released a DM “search” that can only find users. I can search for messages from “Damon Beres,” but I can’t search for the content of those messages.
According to computer scientists and UX/UI designers I talked to, while public-facing search products like Google and DuckDuckGo have gotten smarter and more accurate in recent years, private search is a different animal. This may be part of the reason why Twitter hasn’t yet implemented a more comprehensive DM search: It’s a labor-intensive endeavor for the company when, clearly, it has plenty to focus on with its public-facing product.
Twitter told me it’s working to improve its DM features by May.
But I believe that for a communication company to truly become invaluable to its users, it needs to allow for full-featured private messaging, and that includes search. If I can’t easily pull up a month-old message from a friend in which she sends me her mailing address, for example, I’m not going to have important conversations there. And if I’m wary of holding important conversations via DMs, it’s never going to be anything more than a shallow and cursory way for me and many others to send articles and tweets back and forth forever.
Twitter told me it’s working to improve its DM features by May, and a member of their product team recently tweeted asking what kind of features people thought would make DM search better. Nearly 15 years after Twitter was born, it’s finally considering the weighty endeavor of improving DM search beyond its paltry update in 2019, when it finally allowed people to search…