After a trial run, Twitter has said that it would extend the controversial two-month test to all its users in most languages, doubling the amount they can write in a tweet from the original 140 to 280 characters.
The extra latitude for the verbose, which comes more than 11 years after the service was launched, represents a dilution of the early vision of co-founder Jack Dorsey, who saw the extreme brevity of Twitter’s messages as a way to force users to concentrate their thoughts.
According to Twitter’s Product Manager, Aliza Rosen, in a blog post, “We are making this change after listening and observing a problem our global community was having (it wasn’t easy enough to Tweet!), studying data to understand how we could improve, trying it out, and listening to your feedback,” Most people should automatically see the 280-character feature. If not, they can update their mobile app or refresh twitter.com on their computers. People tweeting in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese will remain at the 140 character limit for now.
Agency reports say the move comes at an awkward time for Twitter, which has been facing criticism and pressure from shareholders, Congress, President Donald Trump and everyday people who use it. Among the most-discussed complaints have been concerns that the company negligently mishandled the daily harassment some people experience on its service and that it allowed propaganda on the platform that illegally influenced the 2016 presidential election.
It’s probably no surprise that the company’s user count has stalled at 330 million accounts, and that’s after Twitter admitted to having overcounted user numbers for three years.
Concerns about Russian interference in the US election led congressional leaders to grill Facebook, Google and Twitter on the details of how that meddling happened and what the tech giants are doing to stop it. Fearing federal regulation, the companies have vowed to make changes.
For years, Twitter has toyed with the notion of changing its 140-character rule, which was established around the time the company was created in 2006.
In the past two years, Twitter has ditched the limit when people send direct messages to one another. It’s also relaxed limitations on photos, videos and GIFs, and replies to other users.
Many users tweeted to the full 280-character limit because it was “new and novel,” Twitter’s Rosen wrote in her blog post. Once the novelty wore off, she said, about 5 percent of tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2 percent were over 190 characters.
Users who had more room to tweet received more followers, retweets, likes and mentions, she added.
When the 280-character trial began, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in series of tweets that the original 140-character limit was arbitrary, inspired by the 160-character limit for SMS messages over cellphones. He expected “the snark and critique” about the change and said most users likely won’t use the full 280 characters.
“What matters now is we clearly show why this change is important, and to prove to you it’s better. Give us some time to learn and confirm (or challenge!) our ideas,” he said.