Yes, I believe Twitter has just become even less useful. In a very vague statement today that I guess Twitter doesn’t expect us to understand, Twitter removed, without warning or feedback from users it would seem, any and all Tweets in your stream that include @replies to people you are not following. Previously this was an option you could turn on or off, but Biz Stone, founder of Twitter, says in this “small settings update” that “receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.”
What it would appear just happened is in a single blog post, Twitter has killed the weekly phenomena, #followfriday. The tradition was to refer people your followers may not know, but you recommend following. With the removal of this feature, if I’m understanding correctly (please correct me if I’m wrong), you will no longer see #followfriday posts with names of users you don’t follow, rendering #followfriday completely useless.
Confused? Based on the last sentence of their post, it seems that Twitter doesn’t care.
UPDATE: Twitter has removed the last sentence that said “Confused? That’s understandable and exactly why we made the update.” and instead replaced it with the following clarification:
The Importance of Discovery
Spotting new folks in tweets is an interesting way to check out new profiles and find new people to follow. Despite this update, you’ll still see mentions or references linking to people you don’t follow. For example, you’ll continue to see, “Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff” even if you don’t follow @biz. We’ll be introducing better ways to discover and follow interesting accounts as we release more features in this space.
UPDATE 2: It would appear you still can’t see the above Tweet if it starts with @biz and you don’t follow @biz, removing many valuable discoverable Tweets from your stream.