The Most Important Way Twitter Apps Prevent Humiliation

Once upon a time, you couldn't take back a mistake that you made on Twitter. Thankfully, there's been progress since those dark ages.

Do you remember the early days of Twitter? I’m a devoted UberSocial user on my BlackBerry, but before I got hooked on it, I was a committed “40404” user. Many of the 200 million registered Twitter users probably don’t know what that means. Well, those five digits could be the source of endless embarrassment. Twitter apps have pushed the problem out of Twitter life, however, making us all much happier. It all comes down to deleting a tweet.

So, what am I talking about?

Before Twitter apps were popular, you had two ways to participate with the service: and text messaging. Sure, it didn’t take TweetDeck long to arrive on the scene, and there were some iPhone apps (such as Tweetie). Many, though, were stuck texting their updates to 40404 along with a variety of commands for following, dropping and sending direct messages.

Here’s the problem: you truly had no control over your tweets.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. You’re drunk. Blasted. Obliterated. Everything that exits your mouth strikes you as pure genius. This thinking extends to your fingertips, of course, and you send out the most embarrassing tweet you can imagine. It’s ugly. You tell people what you really think about the … that sort of thing.

In a moment of clarity, you realize what you’ve done – and you want to take it back. So, you rush home, fire up your laptop and log into, where you find the horrifying tweet, delete it and hope nobody is the wiser.

Then, the next morning comes.

Hung over, you plod to the kitchen for some black coffee to burn down your regrets, and you check your phone. There’s a text message from 40404, and it contains a DM from someone you wronged via Twitter the night before. The DM begins, “I just saw your awful tweet, asshole.”

How did this happen?

The guy had text messaging enabled with updates from you sent to his device. When you deleted your tweet through a drunken haze, you had no idea that it could wind up as a text message on a phone … and that Twitter couldn’t reach onto that device and destroy the damage you had caused.

Twitter apps, of course, have made 40404 basically irrelevant. Instead of texting with Twitter, we use clever bits of software that are much more user-friendly and carry no need to remember DOS-style commands in the social media age. Because of this, we can delete those embarrassing tweets as soon as they happen, and the risk of someone receiving them as text messages is lower. After all, nobody needs to get those annoying texts any more.

There’s no doubt that Twitter apps have contributed much to the user experience. The apps have made the microblogging service widely available – 200 million users never would have happened without them. There are some other benefits, of course, and your pride is certainly on the receiving end, especially if you’ve skipped the thinking that should usually come before tweeting!

Publish date: April 19, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT