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Twitter tweaks Direct Messages to let you chat with strangers in private

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Twitter is rolling out a trio of small tweaks to its Direct Messages feature, giving users who don't follow one another more ways to talk in private. Users can now reply to anyone who sends you a Direct Message, regardless of whether or not that person follows you back. Or, they can choose to receive direct messages from anyone using Twitter. While the second of these features sounds like a recipe for spam, it's most likely intended to help brands handle customer support on the site. The ability to DM followers, meanwhile, could be useful for taking public disputes to a more private sphere. An update to Twitter's iOS and Android apps also adds a Direct Messages button to user profiles for easier access.

Direct Messages is improving, but it's not as good as the likes of Facebook Messenger

Twitter says that it's still "[laying] the foundation for a powerful and engaging messaging experience," but many users will be eager for bigger changes than this. These tweaks follow the addition of direct messages between groups of people earlier this year (a sad loss to the fine art of the subtweet), but messaging in private on Twitter remains relatively buggy and feature-poor, especially compared to the likes of Facebook Messenger. Despite this, DMs are a useful staging post in social media — perfect for chatting to people you might know professionally, but don't want to add on Facebook. Now if only they'd get rid of that character limit too.

Correction, 12:44 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misstated one of the changes to Direct Messages. Users were already able to send DMs to any of their followers, even if the user wasn't following that person. Starting today, you can now reply to anyone who sends you a DM, even if the person who sent it doesn't follow you.