Twitter’s 140-character limit could soon be toast.
The company is considering nixing its long-defining constraint in favor a new limit: 280 characters.
The change, which Twitter is currently testing globally with a small group, would apply to tweets in every language except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean — which already allow you to say more with fewer characters.
“We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we're doing something new: we're going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming,” Twitter said in a blog post.
The test is sure to provoke a strong reaction among Twitter’s hardcore users, who have a long history of reacting strongly to changes in the service’s fundamentals, such as Twitter’s decision to transform the timeline from reverse chronological order to one that’s algorithmically sorted.
“We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint,” Twitter said its blog post. “We want to try it out with a small group of people before we make a decision to launch to everyone.”
When Jack Dorsey became Twitter CEO in 2015, he declared a willingness to rethink the entire product to make it more appealing to the masses. "We continue to show a questioning of our fundamentals in order to make the product easier and more accessible to more people," Dorsey said in a July 2015 earnings call. He’s followed through on the promise, adding live video, introducing the algorithmic timeline, changing “faves” to “likes,” creating personalized article recommendations based on Twitter users’ networks, and more. A new character limit would follow the pattern.
Dorsey’s strategy has produced mixed results so far. Since he made the declaration about questioning Twitter’s fundamentals, the company’s stock has lost approximately half its value. But Twitter has added more than 10 million users since then.
In Japan, whose language allows people to convey complex thoughts in a small number of characters, Twitter has outpaced Facebook. The company is clearly seizing upon lessons learned there as it tests these longer tweets. “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,” Twitter said. “In all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting.”
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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