“Previously, if you wanted to send a Direct Message to the ice cream shop down the street … you’d have to ask them to follow you first,” Nhu Vuong, a senior software engineer at Twitter, explains in a new blog post. Now, “The ice cream shop can opt to receive Direct Messages from anyone … so you can privately send your appreciation for the salted caramel without any barriers.”
Twitter previously tried out the same feature, before retracting quickly it. While early adopters were permitted to retain the feature, the back-and-forth appeared to be driven by a concern over user privacy.
Twitter is trying to position itself as a messaging service on par with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Among other related efforts, the social giant recently made it possible for users to privately share tweets using Direct Messages.
As demonstrated by its decision to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion, Facebook thinks messaging is a big deal. Last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that messaging had become “one of the few things that people actually do more than social networking.”
More recently, Facebook officially turned Messenger into a platform for developers to directly distribute their apps to the service’s roughly 600 million users.
Separately, Google recently released a standalone Messenger app for Android. Messenger, so called, can be used for SMS and MMS phone functions, as well as for sending and receiving audio messages.