Twitter is upgrading Direct Messages, and taking cues from Snapchat

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Direct Messages are a crucial yet underdeveloped Twitter feature. More often than not, you find yourself turning to the personal @ message to get someone’s attention, rather than praying they’ll follow-back and give you DM privileges (which, of course, Twitter prefers since that makes it public). They’re also, of course, limited to 140 characters. Read-receipts are better but continue to trick us into thinking we’re more popular than we are, and there are mixed feelings about the coming ability for anyone to send a direct message.

But Twitter is planning to upgrade Direct Messages, so perhaps our troubles are behind us. According to AllThingsD, the social network has noticed the ephemeral trend that’s hitting digital and trying to carve out a slice of Snapchat-like success for itself. Twitter is considering creating a standalone app focusing on messaging in the vein of WhatsApp, Tango, and Line.

Facebook followed this same path with a handful of updates to its standalone app, Messenger (with its new Chatheads function), that mimicked private and group chatting services (including the aforementioned).

For both Facebook and Twitter, it’s an important but divergent effort. It’s in both companies’ best interest for as much content as possible to be posted publicly; you can’t leverage private chats about a TV show, movie, product, or brand. All of the people interested in spending money with these platforms are doing so because they are a hive of publicity and conversation, so helping people keep things private doesn’t help that effort.

But you have to give the users what they want or they will leave, and users want group and private messaging apps. Downloads and use has been skyrocketing for these services. Snapchat recently announced there are 350 million snaps sent each day. If Twitter can get users on board with its own private messaging system, there’s a chance when they finally do feel like speaking up – publicly – they’ll be invested in enough to do it there.