Tech & The Web

Twitter Tests Doubling Tweet Character Limit

For those of you who love Twitter but hate that pesky 140-tweet character limit, this story is likely the news you’ve been waiting for.

Social media giant Twitter is testing a new tweet character limit that it has already begun rolling out, according to the company’s blog.

But curiously enough, the new limit of 280 characters, twice the old 140-character limit, isn’t rolling out to everyone.

The new longer tweet option will only available for users who are tweeting in languages that are, as the blog puts it, “impacted by cramming.”

The cramming it’s talking about is the fact that in some languages — like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese — you can convey entire words or phrases with single characters, while in languages like English, Spanish and others, individual characters must form separate words.

When the service launched back in 2006, the character limit seemed to make sense…at least, on paper. Twitter was designed to be used on text-messaging services, which themselves have 160-character limits. Their 140-limit made room for usernames of up to 20 characters.

Ten years later, its CEO, Jack Dorsey, was still defending that character limit, saying this on NBC’s Today show in March 2016: “It’s a good constraint for us and it allows for of-the-moment brevity.”

There’s nothing wrong with brevity, of course, unless it’s too limiting to effectively convey the message.

Last year, the company seemed to be willing to compromise. It didn’t change the 140-character limit so many people loved to hate, but it did announce that common components of tweets — usernames, photos, videos, polls and quote-tweets — would no longer count against those 140 characters.

Definitely an improvement. But still not enough.

Twitter’s blog post compared how many tweets sent in Japanese reached that 140-character cut-off versus how many tweets sent in English hit the same threshold. They claim their research shows less than one percent of Japanese tweets are that long, while nine percent of English tweets run out of characters.

Nine percent still seems a bit low to me, but it was obviously high enough for them.

They dropped this little truth bomb:

Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people Tweeting in English, but it is not for those Tweeting in Japanese.

Go figure!

Twitter says it hopes increasing that limit will make more people tweet, a curious strategy to require a decade to come to fruition.

But it will be interesting to see what kind of impact being able to tweet bigger will have on the service and its number of users.

Will you be more likely to use Twitter if you have more characters to work with, or do you think this is a bad move?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.