Retweet Conventions

Will there become a universally accepted standard?

I saw a lot of discussion going on in the Twitterverse recently about standard conventions for "retweeting" - the increasingly popular habit of repeating someone else's tweet verbatim with a credit to their username (or as close to verbatim as possible inside of the 140-character limit).

I personally don't retweet often, but I see it happening more and more every day. (Whether or not this increases the quality of Twitter conversations is a debate for another post.) Enough users of, the Twitter client for the Web and iPhone that I make, requested a retweet button so I went ahead and added one several weeks ago.

Several weeks ago, savvy user David Simmons had written me to ask if iTweet could use the Unicode "recycle" symbol ♺ as a standard for retweeting.  I immediately liked the idea - it's expressive, cool-looking and best of all it's only one character long, conserving space for more tweet.

Unfortunately I looked into it and found that the symbol doesn't render in SMS messages or on the iPhone.  Since is an iPhone web app, and since a large number of Twitter users rely on SMS, IMO this makes it a no-go for a standard retweet convention.  Bummer!  Many other Unicode characters display just fine on the iPhone - I don't know why some do and some don't, but ♺ is not one of the friendly ones.

My point here is that if a convention isn't able to be communicated through all channels, it shouldn't become a standard. For this reason I have made the ♺ symbol available in the "symbols" section, but can't recommend using it as a retweet symbol for anyone who wants maximum exposure and clarity in their tweets.

Anyway there is some great discussion on the topic over at Stowe Boyd's blog - go check it out if you're interested - and this made me think I should put my two cents in on the subject.

There has been other discussion about whether "RT" or "via" makes for a better standard.  I personally think "via" is a bit more friendly to newbies and a lot more readable, but "RT" seems to be the most common convention, so that's currently what I use in my Twitter client.

I also found this interesting article at Dan Zarrella's blog where he states:

Contrary to what I initially thought, “RT” is used more than 4 times more often than the full word “retweet”.

I am quite open to the idea of using something different if a better standard is proposed.  What's your favorite retweet convention?

Leave comments on this blog, or let's talk on Twitter or Facebook.

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