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Twitter trials tweeting with twice as many characters

Twitter Phone

Twitter trials tweeting with twice as many characters

Twitter’s 140-character tweet limit has long been a source of both entertainment and frustration for its users.

It can be immensely annoying when you don’t quite have the room to say what you wanted to, leading to criticism that the social media site promotes an overly blunt ‘soundbite’ style of writing rather than an expressive one. At the same time though, it’s hugely satisfying when you manage to fit just inside the word count, and it could be argued that composing eloquent and engaging tweets with a mere 140 characters to work with is a skilful art.

The idea of introducing a bit of wiggle room into Twitter’s character limit has been mooted several times before, and it now looks like the microblogging site is finally implementing the change, with a blog post on Tuesday revealing that a “small group” of Twitter users are being given a 280-character limit.

Why the change?

Twitter says that 9% of all tweets written in English currently come in at exactly 140 characters, and is concerned that people may be “cramming” in order to fit their ideas into one tweet. It hopes that a longer character limit will allow users to “easily express themselves” while still maintaining the site’s punchy and easy-to-digest style.

It says character cramming is an issue not just in English, but in all languages except Chinese, Japanese and Korean, where a single character can represent an entire word or phrase. In these languages, 140 characters is usually too much, with only 0.4% of Japanese tweets hitting the limit.

Can I have the 280-character limit?

According to The Independent, yes, it’s possible for any Twitter user to become part of the select group of 280-character VIPs by downloading a script management tool called Tampermonkey. The Independent does report, however, that it only works on a desktop computer and that switching between pages can cause problems.

How has it been received?

Early reactions to the doubled character limit have been mixed. Some have embraced it, welcoming the freedom to be wordier in their tweets. Some have groaned, fearing that the site will lose its main characteristic and that they’ll now see twice as much toxicity from the likes of Donald Trump, Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins. Some haven’t really done either, but have just had a joke about it instead.

The 140-character limit is as synonymous with Twitter as the ‘like’ icon is with Facebook, so a revised character limit on Twitter is sure to take some getting used to. However, the introduction of the Reactions buttons on Facebook has largely been a success and hasn’t diluted the popularity of the widely recognised thumbs-up graphic, so perhaps social media sites should not be afraid of making changes that offer their users more options and flexibility. As the old maxim goes, no company should resist change just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

John Murray
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