Twitter Just Made Direct Messaging Way Simpler

by Alicia Lu

With its latest update, Twitter allows you to direct message other people and for them to DM you, regardless of whether or not you two follow one another. Previously, if you wanted to send a private message to another user or receive one in return, both you and the other person had to follow each other. Now, anyone who chooses to opt into the feature can direct message anyone else, a move that the company hopes will encourage more people to sign up for the platform. No longer will you have to go through the annoying and embarrassing process of asking for a follow just so you can DM someone.

On Monday, Twitter made the announcement in a blog post, writing:

Direct Messages are the best way to take your public Twitter conversations private. Today, we’re changing how direct messaging works so that it’s even easier for you to communicate one-to-one or with a chosen group of people, anywhere in the world.

The three main changes, according to Twitter's blog post, include:

  • A setting that allows you to receive Direct Messages from anyone, even if you don’t follow them.
  • Updated messaging rules so you can reply to anyone who sends you a Direct Message, regardless of whether or not that person follows you.
  • A new Direct Message button on profile pages on Android and iPhone. You’ll see it on the profiles of people you can send Direct Messages to.
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In order to take advantage of this new feature, all you have to do is turn on "Receive Direct Messages from anyone" in your security and privacy settings. Then, voilà! You can DM anyone else who has opted in to the feature, even if both of your tweets are private.

The new DM feature will be especially beneficial for companies and celebrities who occasionally have the need or desire to respond to an individual but don't want to follow them. For example, if you tweet at Comcast to call them the devil because they made it hell to cancel cable, they can now discreetly respond to your complaint by sending you a DM instead of publicly apologizing and furthering their shame (not that they don't deserve it).


Previously, if you deleted a conversation from someone you don't follow, Twitter would have registered the messages as spam and would have blocked the user from being able to DM you in the future. However, if you have enabled the "Receive Direct Messages from anyone" feature, the only way you can stop someone from messaging you is by actively blocking them.

For more information on how to use the new feature, you can visit Twitter's Help Center.

Twitter's new move comes as investor pressure mounts with the rise of private messaging apps like WhatsApp, which was recently purchased by rival social media behemoth Facebook. On Friday, WhatsApp announced that the number of its active users had reached 800 million. In comparison, the number of active Twitter users is roughly 288 million, and it's been around for years longer than WhatsApp.

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In January, Twitter added private group messaging to its features, which allowed users to add others to group chats that complemented their public tweet streams. The thought process behind that update, Product Director Jinen Kamdar explained, was that Twitter users often interact with people they've never met on real life, and sometimes they want to take their public conversations into a private forum. Both private group messaging and the new unlimited direct messaging feature will help cement Twitter as the most popular meeting place for strangers online.

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