Yesterday afternoon, Twitter announced on its company blog that it is testing 280-character limits with a number of its users.
Aliza Rosen, product manager, and Ikuhiro Ihara, senior software engineer, at Twitter wrote:
Trying to cram your thoughts into a Tweet – we’ve all been there, and it’s a pain.
Interestingly, this isn’t a problem everywhere people Tweet. For example, when I (Aliza) Tweet in English, I quickly run into the 140 character limit and have to edit my Tweet down so it fits. Sometimes, I have to remove a word that conveys an important meaning or emotion, or I don’t send my Tweet at all. But when Iku Tweets in Japanese, he doesn’t have the same problem. He finishes sharing his thought and still has room to spare. This is because in languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.
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.
Look at this chart they shared:
Basically, Twitter wants to make it easier for us English speakers to fit all of what we want into a single tweet. The 140-character limit was an arbitrary number selected at the inception of Twitter because of the character length of text messages at that time. Because the character length of text messages is now irrelevant, and perhaps because Twitter leadership has recognized that it has to do something to breathe life into the platform, they have decided that now is the time to double the character limit.
Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey tweeted:
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
The other Twitter Co-Founder, Biz Stone tweeted:
Originally, our constraint was 160 (limit of a text) minus username. But we noticed @biz got 1 more than @jack. For fairness, we chose 140. Now texts are unlimited. Also, we realize that 140 isn't fair—there are differences between languages. We're testing the limits. Hello 280!
— Biz Stone (@biz) September 26, 2017
For now, the feature has not been rolled out to everyone, so don’t worry if it isn’t available for you yet. This is almost certainly going to be rolled out to everyone soon enough.
It seems that we have reached the end of an era. Twitter taught us how to communicate with brevity. In theory, “tweetstorms” should be cut in half. It should be the case. But it likely won’t be.
Chris Martin is the Co-Creator and Chief Content Officer at LifeWay Social as well as a Content Strategist at LifeWay. He and his wife Susie live outside Nashville, TN.