And just like that, Twitter became a mini blog, as its 140-character limit died today after a long battle with Facebook.
Twitter to allow some users to tweet 280 characters https://t.co/AbfPq0Sy12
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) September 26, 2017
Twitter is expanding its character limit on text posts to 280 characters from 140, starting with a subset of users, according to a post on the company's blog. The company is describing the move as a test, but the writing is on the wall for this succinct art form. The company's 140-character limit is survived by brands, publishers and personalities, who will miss its insistence on wit and getting to the point.
The move will likely also result in countless power users departing as the last thing they want is another Facebook-lite.
Commenting on the revolutionary shift, TWTR CEO Jack Dorsey said "this is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence!"
And this is what an expanded tweet will look like, again courtesy of @Jack:
This is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence! https://t.co/TuHj51MsTu
— jack (@jack) September 26, 2017
"Although we feel confident about our data and the positive impact this change will have, we want to try it out with a small group of people before we make a decision to launch to everyone," the company said in a blog post Tuesday.
The blog post continued:
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 (which is all except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean).
Although this is only available to a small group right now, we want to be transparent about why we are excited to try this. Here are some of our findings:
We see that a small percent of Tweets sent in Japanese have 140 characters (only 0.4%). But in English, a much higher percentage of Tweets have 140 characters (9%). Most Japanese Tweets are 15 characters while most English Tweets are 34. 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. Also, 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 – which is awesome!
"What matters most is that this works for our community—we will be collecting data and gathering feedback along the way. We're hoping fewer Tweets run into the character limit, which should make it easier for everyone to Tweet."
Not everyone will be included in the dramatic overhaul: Twitter is not extending the new limit of 280 character to Japan, China or Korea, because those languages do more with fewer characters, the company said in its blog post. English, French, Portuguese and Spanish were included in the change.
Even though Twitter has been hinting at the change for more than a year, it is rolling out the longer limit slowly for fear of alienating its most hardcore users. It is unclear just how the slow rollout will prevent said hardcore users from realizing what comes next.
"140 characters isn't any easy construct, but that's exactly why I love it," says Jill Sherman, head of social strategy at DigitasLBi. "People and brands are forced to stop and think about what they really want to say. And it makes the feed pithy and easily scannable. I'll definitely miss it."
To be sure, the constraint became a defining brand for Twitter, forcing its users to condense their thoughts into only the most essential words. Twitter users developed a text message-like shorthand that became its own language—"you are" became "u r"—and, more significantly, big ideas were often reduced to hashtags. And it made equals of everyone, in a way: From the greatest wordsmiths to the leader of the free world to the casual user, everybody shared the struggle of editing their thoughts down to their sharpest point.
"Trying to cram your thoughts into a Tweet," Aliza Rosen, Twitter product manager, and Ikuhiro Ihara, senior software engineer, said in the blog post. "We've all been there, and it's a pain."
Research shows the character limit is a "major source of frustration," according to the post, with 9 percent of tweets in English running up against it. In markets where the limit is less of a problem, more people tweet, the company says.
"We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters. we felt it, too," the post reads. "But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint."
However, as Adage notes, in the end, the 140-character limit symbolized a problem for Twitter: "It made it harder to get people to tweet, especially if they weren't used to it. For many, it could be the difference between becoming a new user and giving up immediately. After all, what can you possibly say in just 140 characters?"
The new limit gives more space to breathe, let thoughts expand, and possibly lower the difficulty level for anyone new to the service.
In short, it makes Twitter... Facebook. Unfortunately, it certainly does not mean that Twitter's revenues will double.