Twitter in 280 Characters


Twitter is changing their game going forward. Last week, they announced a trial run of doubling character length for Tweets to 280 characters. This is a huge change, as Twitter has been defined by its character limits, forcing users to get to the point of what they’re trying to say. At best, it’s forced us to get better at writing fewer words, while at worst, it’s frustratingly limiting.

This new direction is quite a significant change, and it understandably has some people up in arms. Ultimately, it’s a move that may keep Twitter tweeting. The New York Times has reported that even with 328 million users, there’s some concern that Twitter is unable to attract more people. Investors are mostly concerned with the drop in revenue, directly linked to the drop in growth. Twitter has made recent moves to extend the 140 character count by not counting emojis against users, but it wasn’t enough. CEO Jack Dorsey made the announcement last week on Twitter, saying “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!”

But will this be enough to attract new users? And what exactly does this mean for current users?

First of all, the increased character count will obviously allow a nw flexibility with your tweets. Interestingly enough, this change will help certain languages – like English, French, Spanish – more than others. Some foreign languages – like Japanese, Chinese or Korean – use characters that can double the amount of information conveyed in one word. So Japanese users have less constraints and more room to convey all of their thoughts and emotions over an English or French user. An English user might have to pare down on a certain word that will carry the whole emotion or meaning of the tweet, which will then lead to many not tweeting at all. 

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Image via Twitter

Secondly, this will ideally bring in a whole new wave of Tweeters. In a TechCrunch article, Twitter is cited as saying “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.” Many non-users question the accessibility of Twitter, looking directly at the limiting character count. Twitter is hoping, that without such a confining character limit, that users will tweet more often, and even further, non-users will convert to tweeting. An influx of new users will revitalize the application, and bring in a good bit of new revenue for the company.

Finally, this new rollout is looking to change the interface as well, by totally removing the character counting altogether. In it’s place will be a circle that fills in as you type, until you hit characters, when it will then start counting. 

There has been pushback however, despite all the exciting new changes. Some users have cited an appreciation for the 140 count as no other social media service operates like that. Others have argued that you don’t get to see the full tweet up front, unlike before. Twitter has been running a trial program, so only a certain number of users have been able to operate the new rollout. They still haven’t made any final decisions, and are in the middle of capturing data about the experience. 

Twitter commented on the negative feedback, saying, “We understand since many of you have been tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.” Any apprehension about these changes is understandable, but users should understand that Twitter isn’t changing it’s purpose. “Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter. That is something we will never change.”