In a change announced on Monday, Twitter said that users will have the option of changing a setting on their account which will allow any other user to send them a private message. Users only used to be able to private message each other if they were following one another, writes Vindu Goel for the New York Times.

Twitter DM

Response to growing popularity of other messaging services

Another updated feature means that if a user is following a popular account, such as Burger King, the user will be able to respond to messages sent by that account even if Burger King is not following the individual. Twitter users worldwide will see the changes in the next few days.

Twitter has previously been criticized for its private messaging service, which is considered to be a weak point for the company. The nature of Twitter means that it is better suited to public conversation. The update is part of a plan to improve private messaging.

The delay in improving its service has seen Twitter struggle to keep up with other messaging services such as WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned service recently reached 800 million active users, while Twitter boasts 288 million.

New possibilities for Twitter direct messages

Twitter direct messages will now be useful to a wider spectrum of users such as corporations, celebrities and politicians, who can contact followers with special deals or fund-raising appeals. Journalists could find themselves receiving tip-offs from anonymous Twitter accounts, while other users will be able to strike up private conversation more easily.

ne potential problem with the update is that users who allow messages from every other user could be inundated by spam and other unwanted communications. Facebook sends messages from strangers to a special inbox, treating them all as junk mail. In order to protect its users from spam, Twitter says that by deleting a conversation with a stranger, its users can block further messages from them.

In order to facilitate the sending of direct messages, Twitter plans to put a new button in its Android and iOS apps so that users know when they can send messages to the specific account they are viewing.