Direct messages, one of the oldest features of Twitter, is finally getting a revamp. A new setting that’s been slowly rolling out over the last few days will give users the choice to receive private messages from any of their followers.

A checkbox spotted by The Verge and available from the Twitter site explains: “Generally, you must follow someone before they have the ability to direct message you. If you check this option, any Twitter user that follows you will be able to send you a DM, regardless of whether you decide to follow them back.”

This is what it looks like in the account settings:

Screen Shot 2013 10 15 at 10.37.26 Twitter begins giving its users the option to receive direct messages from any of their followers

In the past, users have been unable to send a direct message to someone in their follower list if their chosen recipient wasn’t following them back. This often forced users to send a rather embarrassing tweet asking for the user in question to follow their account. In the process, they alerted anyone to the fact that they wanted to send them a private message in the first place.

Hopefully those awkward situations will now be averted. It’s worth noting that this option only accounts for Twitter followers; if a particular user is being a nuisance, it’ll still be possible to block them and keep the checkbox on.

Otherwise, an awful lot of spam could start building up in users’ private Twitter inboxes. If that’s the case, this setting will be ignored by most of the social network’s user base.

When asked about the feature, a spokesperson for Twitter referred TNW to this statement issued back in 2011:

Contrary to news reports, Twitter has not changed the rules for how Direct Messages (DMs) work for Verified accounts.

However, we have given a limited number of accounts the ability to receive DMs from accounts they don’t follow, in cases where having that capability may be beneficial (for example, enabling businesses to receive account information that users may not want to post publicly).

We do not have plans for making this capability more widely available at this time. Accounts with access to this feature must opt-in to utilize it.

We will continue to experiment with ways of helping people and companies get more value from Twitter. As with all of our experiments, we are listening carefully to feedback on this feature and will use that feedback to continue innovating and iterating.

These comments imply that this is a test and that the feature, if controversial or ineffective, might not be rolled out to all Twitter accounts.

Image credit: Mary Turner/Getty Images