Twitter changed up its Direct Message feature on Monday so anyone can send you a private message, which sounds like a sure-fire recipe for disaster. The upside is that it's off by default, so this isn't the godsend for spammers and online harassers some are making it out to be.
Twitter opens the door to private messages... sort of
Twitter's Direct Message, or DM, feature has been a way for people to carry on a private conversation. It's been limited to users who follow each other—something that cuts down on just who can chat privately with each other, but also cut out the possibility for spammers to load up your private conversation stream with unwanted messages and kept online harassers from privately targeting their victims.
Today's DM change announcement set off a chain reaction of negative reactions fueled in part by news articles and blog posts failing to mention that opening the flood gates to your DM feed is an opt-in feature, not opt-out. In other words, if you don't change your Twitter privacy settings you won't start getting private messages from people who you aren't already following.
Enabling open DMs sounds like a really bad idea for most users, but it could hold some value for businesses. Say, for example, you have a quick comment or question for a company you don't want the whole world to see. Assuming the company has opened up its DM doors so anyone can send private messages, you can quickly shoot off your comment without first asking the company to follow you.
This opens a new avenue for communication with businesses, and most likely opens a new revenue stream for Twitter, too.
If you aren't using your Twitter account for business, don't enable open DMs, and think long and hard before enabling it for the business accounts you manage. Opening your DM stream to the public is like a Pandora's Box and it won't be long before the elements you don't like about the public side of Twitter streams will invade your private conversations, too.
You can check your DM preferences on Twitter's Security and privacy settings Web page. The settings are rolling out to accounts today, so if they aren't showing up for you just check back later.
[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]