You can now tweet in 280 characters, but should you?
08 Nov 2017
About 1.5 months after launching a new feature on an experimental basis, Twitter has finally made it official for all: everyone can now tweet up to 280 characters instead of its signature 140.
This comes even as the social networking platform faces criticism for not doing enough to tackle harassment, political manipulation, use of bots and more.
Needless to say, reactions have been mixed.
A one-month experiment changed Twitter’s defining feature
The 140-character limit has been Twitter’s identity since it was born in 2006.
When it first rolled out the feature to select users in September, Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen said, “We understandthere may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters.”
But her team fell in love with “this new, still brief, constraint”.
CEO Jack Dorsey said the original 140-character limit was anyway arbitrary.
What good did the new 280-character limit do?
Twitter reported how the experiment had been successful: number of tweets hitting the character limit fell from 9% to 1%, indicating people were having to spend less time creating limited-character tweets.
Those with longer tweets “received more engagement, got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter”.
Owing to their accommodating script, the new feature hasn’t been extended to Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
But did users actually need it?
Throughout the years, Twitter has ditched word limits in messages and relaxed restrictions on photos, videos and GIFs. With “threaded” tweets too, people could go on a rant. There was also a demand for an edit button. Many claimed a 280-character limit doesn’t help much.
Could Twitter have had an ulterior motive?
One possible reason behind the update is to divert attention from the negative press Twitter has been receiving, according to crisis communications expert Kelley Heider.
The platform has faced backlash over not checking frequent harassment especially of female users and allowing Russian propaganda during the 2016 US presidential elections.
According to Heider, increased character limit might just result in more inflammatory tweets.
There were 35,000-character tweets, but Twitter’s sure about 280 characters
Meanwhile, a bug was already detected. Two Germans managed to post 35,000-character tweets!
“People! @Timrasett and @HackneyYT can exceed the character limit! You don’t believe us? Here’s about 35k characters proof,” they posted, followed by thousands of nonsensical characters.
Twitter said it has taken corrective steps.
For now, Dorsey has requested for “some time to learn and confirm (or challenge!) our ideas”.