The dreaded DM fail is without a doubt one of the most embarrassing Twitter faux pas you can fall victim to.
Luckily, good guy Twitter wants to help prevent you from accidentally embarrassing yourself. Twitter’s app can now warn you in some situations if it detects that you may be trying to send a direct message, rather than a tweet.
When you begin a reply with “DM,” Twitter’s app will display a prominent warning reminding you that you are not, in fact, sending a direct message. “You’re Tweeting this,” it says “anything sent from the Tweet compose field will now be sent like any other Tweet.”
While the warning may seem obvious, Twitter users have been falling victim to DM fails pretty much since the beginning of Twitter. (The company’s own CFO even had one particularly embarrassing DM misstep.)
Incidentally, the new warnings also trace back to the early days of Twitter. This is a bit technical — so stick with us — but the change is rooted in Twitter’s history as an SMS-based service.
It’s easy to forget now but, when using Twitter via SMS, the way you initiate various actions, like sending a DM, is by attaching specific commands before the text of your tweets. Prefixing a text with the letter “D,” the letter “M,” or “DM,” followed by a username is how you start a direct message via SMS.
This behavior eventually carried over to Twitter’s APIs as well — likely to keep things consistent for those who were used to using SMS commands. But that changed last month when Twitter made an API change that disabled these legacy commands for direct messages, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed. (You can still use these commands via SMS, but they will no longer work on Twitter’s apps and website.)
As a result of this change, the service began implementing warnings to let people know beginning a tweet with “DM” will no longer actually send a DM. The new safeguard probably wouldn’t have saved the likes of Anthony Weiner from career-ending embarrassment, but at least it’ll stop a few users from accidentally sharing passwords with the entire world.