(Credit: Twitter)

When you have a text-based conversation on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, there's a variety of ways that the platform can display the back-and-forth flow of your interactions. One method is called "nesting," where an indent communicates to the user that a given comment or question is a direct response to the one right above it.

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Since its hatching in 2006, Twitter (download for iOS or Android) has always used a "flat" system, where comments underneath a tweet do not get visually chained together. Instead, you get a bit of text above the comment indicating who it's intended for. While this lacks the clarity of nesting, it also avoids the issue of nested comments getting squished according to the length of the comment chain.

There are potential workarounds for the squishing issue (like sectioning extended conversations onto their own pages, or restricting the number of comments that can nest), and Twitter is apparently interested enough in the alternatives to begin exploring them with a new test platform it calls the Twitter Prototype Program, which launches today according to MacRumors.

This public beta will employ an alternative version of the app called Twtter (perhaps in reference to co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey's first tweet in 2006), and anyone can apply to become a tester. The form will ask you what your Twitter handle is, what device you use, what language(s) you speak, and what country you're located in. The form also says that it may take several weeks before you get a response.

Twitter has circulated a couple screenshots of this nested conversation system in action, and there's already one notable difference versus conventional nesting: color coding. A regular comment in response to a tweet is treated like normal, but the nested response to that comment gets a solid background color to help it stand out.

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This divergence from the usual system may help the user follow the flow of a conversation at-a-glance, and it should help you distinguish a response to a tweet from a response to a comment about the tweet.

In one of Twitter's screenshots, there are also green dots inside of profile pictures in the comments section, which is presumably to indicate that the user has the Twitter app open. So it looks like comment nesting isn't the only thing that Twitter has on its testing docket.

Organizing communication like this is a big change for Twitter, so we'll keep our eyes peeled for more news on this front.

Takeaways

  • Twitter has begun a public test of a proposed comment system that uses nesting and color coding to visually indicate the structure of a conversation between users in the comment section, which is intended to make it easier to follow along.
  • Users can apply to be a tester by filling out this form that asks a few basic questions. It may be a few weeks before you receive a response.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.