After expanding Twitter’s 140 character limit to 280 for select users back in early September, the social media network has revealed plans to release this feature in “all languages where cramming is an issue,” including English.
The social media network says that when the feature was initially released, it saw a spike in 280 character usage because the ability to include additional characters was “new” and “novel.” In the subsequent days, however, behaviour on the platform returned to normal, according to Twitter.
Twitter says that when users needed to utilize more than 140 characters, they tweeted more easily and frequently, though the social network also mentions that it believes the jump to 280 characters does not compromise the platform’s emphasis on brevity.
We’re expanding the character limit! We want it to be easier and faster for everyone to express themselves.
More characters. More expression. More of what’s happening.https://t.co/wBpYdy1K40
— Twitter (@Twitter) November 7, 2017
“Look for Twitter to continue to be rooted in velocity and brevity but now, also offer the possibility of some extra space to use, if needed,” said Leanne Gibson, acting managing director of Twitter Canada. “In our testing over the past month, only five percent of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only two percent were over 190 characters. We anticipate similar patterns once the full rollout takes place.”
Along with the announcement, Twitter also revealed other interesting statistics related to the service’s testing of the new 280 character feature. For example, nine percent of English tweets hit the social network’s current character limit, which often results in significant editing and abandoning Tweets before users hit the send button.
“People did silly (creative!) things like writing one character per line to make their Tweets extra large. It was a temporary effect, and didn’t last long. We’ll definitely see some of this novelty effect spike again with this week’s launch and expect it to resume to normal behaviour soon after,” said Twitter in a statement to MobileSyrup.
With the addition of 280 characters, this issue reduced drastically, says Twitter, with just one percent of tweets hitting the limit. Finally, Twitter says that just five percent of tweets were longer than 140 characters and two percent were over 190 characters, stating that “as a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change.”
While true, rolling out this feature beyond a small number of users will likely increase usage statistics regardless of the initial 280 character limit’s initial sample size. For those disappointed by this move, it’s worth noting that the situation also could have been significantly worse, with Twitter at one point stating that it was testing a tweet limit of 10,000 characters.
When Twitter first launched in 2006, the service was designed to take advantage of wireless carriers’ text-messaging services, which were (and still are) limited to 160 characters.
Twitter’s creators saved the additional 20 characters for the user’s name, leaving 140 characters dedicated to tweets. At the time, the character limit was designed to accommodate a technical limitation in an era before mobile data connections were prevalent. While brevity is what Twitter was built on, 10 years later mobile data plans and smartphones are more common and Twitter’s 140 character limit is artificial.
Twitter says that the new 280 character limit feature is starting to roll out now to all users.