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Thursday, 09 November 2017 13:07

Double Trouble? Twitter Expands Character Limit to 280

Written by Jessica Leff, Digital Marketing Specialist



A big change hit the Twitterverse this week when most users saw their character limit expand from 140 to 280. This concept was introduced in September, when a select group of users were allowed to start tweeting with 280 characters. Now, everyone is eligible, unless they are using the site in Japanese, Korean or Chinese. This is the first time Twitter has changed their character limit since launching in 2006.


Why 140? Why 280?

Back when Twitter first began, George W. Bush was president, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was the highest grossing film, and iPhones did not exist. People were more aware of the 160-character limit for text messages, which inspired the creators of Twitter to choose 140 characters as their limit, with 20 characters left for the username.




Management at Twitter has noticed a disparity between users who speak different languages. Some languages are more likely than others to hit the 140-charcter limit. For example, in a study done before the 280-character test, Twitter found that 9% of English tweets hit the limit while only .4% of Japanese tweets did. They reasoned that it was because you can convey more with fewer characters in Japanese than English. They hope that by increasing the limit for languages that are feeling stifled, they can solve this issue and even continue to grow their user base.




What happened in the test?

Twitter4After the initial onslaught of jokes, data from the test group seemed to prove Twitter’s point. Only 1% of English tweets from the test group reached the character limit. Remember, with the old limit it was 9%. Test users also saw an increase in engagement and followers. They spent more time on the site.

I don’t want to read longer tweets!

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Many complain that this change is going against the spirit of Twitter, which has always been brevity. Fitting your creative thoughts, witticisms or headlines into 140 characters was part of the fun of this platform and made it unique.




Twitter says this is a misconception, pointing to the fact that in the test group, only 5% of tweets in English were actually longer than 140 characters and only 2% were more than 190. They say the soul of Twitter will live on.

Are there any other changes?

Twitter1With the new limit comes a new method of letting users know how long their tweets are. Instead of composing a tweet with the number 140 at the bottom of the window that decreases as you add characters, you will now compose a tweet with a circle that will get filled in as you add characters.

Many users feel that these are not the types of changes Twitter should be prioritizing. Though Twitter recently updated its rules regarding harassment, threats and adult content, people want more strict and transparent action on these issues. Others simply want an edit button, and think that would be more useful than an expanded character limit.  

What’s the consensus?

It’s hard to tell. Those in tech media seem opposed to the change, though there are some who are in favor. More Americans were in favor of the increase than were opposed, but most had no opinion, according to a poll taken in October. A look at sentiment data on Twitter from 9/25/17 to 11/6/17 found that there was more negativity than positivity regarding the issue, but the negative sentiment (and discussion of the topic) decreased since September. So, maybe people are unhappy with the change now but it’s likely the fervor will die down soon.




What now?

For now, continue to tweet as usual without being hindered by the fact that your tweet might be a few letters over the old 140 character limit, and check out the plethora of jokes regarding the changes. Also, let us know what you think about the new character limit.

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Read 2983 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 January 2018 21:48

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