Bye bye 140 characters, Twitter extends 280-character limit to the world

8 Nov 201745 Shares

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Twitter. Image: Rvisoft/Shutterstock

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Twitter believes a 280-character limit will encourage people to tweet longer and more often.

After an experiment with a select number of users in September, Twitter has retired the 140-character limit and confirmed that from today (8 November), all users can now tweet up to 280 characters.

One of the key factors of the test was to ensure that with longer tweets, the effectiveness of the message doesn’t get lost in translation. For example, research by Twitter found that 9pc of users tweeting in English reach the full 140-character limit, suggesting that, in most cases, their tweets have been edited just to fit. This is compared with 0.4pc of Japanese users.

‘We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they tweeted more easily and more often. But, importantly, people tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained’
– ALIZA ROSEN

According to Twitter, Japanese, Korean and Chinese will continue to have the 140 limit as the people who speak these languages are able to say more in fewer characters due to the compact nature of their writing systems.

While Twitter was clearly concerned that the speed and brevity that made it a hit in the first place might be lost with 280 characters, it appears most users would be comfortable with an extended limit.

Full-bodied and full of characters

Twitter decides to extend 280-character limit globally

Graph: Twitter

“During the first few days of the test, many people tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel but soon after, behaviour normalised,” explained Aliza Rosen, product manager at Twitter.

“We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they tweeted more easily and more often. But, importantly, people tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained.”

The experiment showed that only 5pc of tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2pc were more than 190 characters.

“As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change. You’ll still see about the same amount of tweets in your timeline,” Rosen explained.

“For reference, in the timeline, tweets with an image or poll usually take up more space than a 190-character tweet.”

During the experiment period, people wrote just a few characters per line to make their tweets extra large, but this was a temporary effect.

“We expect to see some of this novelty effect spike again with this week’s launch and expect it to resume to normal behaviour soon after,” Rosen predicated.

She added that in addition to tweeting more, people who had extra space to tweet received more engagement in the form of likes, retweets and @ mentions, gained more followers and spent more time on Twitter.

“People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content, and Twitter overall.”

Twitter. Image: Rvisoft/Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com