It seems like a proper @reply does not require a leading @username.
Take this recent reply to me for example: 
http://twitter.com/#!/mikedizon/statuses/27265789132
(note the reply was created via twitter.com too).

On Oct 8, 12:07 pm, Taylor Singletary <taylorsinglet...@twitter.com>
wrote:
> I've never known this to work, but I easily could be wrong. API won't do
> anything to stop you from doing this -- but it won't be considered an
> @reply. HootSuite very well could do some server-side association of the
> post since it is cognizant of the intent during creation -- but that seems
> far-fetched.
>
> Taylor
>
> On Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 8:44 AM, Orian Marx (@orian) 
> <or...@orianmarx.com>wrote:
>
>
>
> > When did this change to actually require starting the @reply with the
> > @username? HootSuite has long supported sending tweets in reply to
> > others without leading with the @username. Does this no longer work?
>
> > On Oct 7, 3:42 pm, Taylor Singletary <taylorsinglet...@twitter.com>
> > wrote:
> > > With as often as this comes up, it's obvious that we aren't communicating
> > > this clearly and the historical aspect of this isn't obvious:
>
> > > An @reply requires that it begins with the @username of the user being
> > > replied to. The in_reply_to_status_id field is not enough to associate
> > the
> > > tweets as a reply -- the username must also be present.
>
> > > Also: When using a POST method, don't include your fields/parameters on
> > the
> > > query string. Instead, put them in the POST body. You may find someday
> > that
> > > passing such parameters on the query string just stops working.
>
> > > Taylor
>
> > > On Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 1:37 PM, Matthew <matt.c.w...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > > Hello,
>
> > > > Been working on a project that will allow users to reply to tweets. I
> > > > am having difficulty in getting the 'in_reply_to_message_id' to be
> > > > acknowledged. I have been using the latest version of Abraham's
> > > > TwitterOAuth library, also confirmed the problem through apigee.
>
> > > > Example request (over POST):
>
> > > >http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/update.json?in_reply_to_status_id=2.
> > ..
> > > > like its not working for apigee either
>
> > > > I can confirm the in_reply_to_status_id message is a message I posted
> > > > earlier.
> > > >http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/show/26673308442.json
>
> > > > I get a response back from twitter with field populated except with
> > > > "in_reply_to_status_id" : null.
> > > > Is there currently a glitch in the twitterapi, or am I using this
> > > > function improperly?
>
> > > > Thanks in advance!
>
> > > > --
> > > > Twitter developer documentation and resources:
> >http://dev.twitter.com/doc
> > > > API updates via Twitter:http://twitter.com/twitterapi
> > > > Issues/Enhancements Tracker:
> > > >http://code.google.com/p/twitter-api/issues/list
> > > > Change your membership to this group:
> > > >http://groups.google.com/group/twitter-development-talk
>
> > --
> > Twitter developer documentation and resources:http://dev.twitter.com/doc
> > API updates via Twitter:http://twitter.com/twitterapi
> > Issues/Enhancements Tracker:
> >http://code.google.com/p/twitter-api/issues/list
> > Change your membership to this group:
> >http://groups.google.com/group/twitter-development-talk

-- 
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