Twitter has always been defined by its brevity: The 140 character restriction was originally mandated by SMS data limits. But Twitter users have also always found ways around that limit, from threaded "tweetstorms" to tweets sharing larger chunks of text as a screenshot. Now, the social network is finally giving into popular demand and doubling its character limit to 280 characters.
Source: Alan O'Rourke/Flickr
When can you start sharing longer tweets? And what does this mean for the future of Twitter? Here's what you need to know.
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
When are longer tweets rolling out?
Two hundred and eighty-characters tweets are still in beta and only available to a "small group" (including company co-founders Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone) for now. In a blog post explaining the change, Twitter didn't say when the new feature would carry over to everyone.
Based on previous updates, it could take months. Back in May 2016, Twitter announced that media attachments such as GIFs and polls would no longer count towards a tweet's character limit, but it took five months to roll out the new feature. Doubling the length of all tweets is an even bigger change, though it's possible Twitter is better prepared to quickly release this update.
How to start tweeting longer tweets right now
Though the official rollout is still TBD, The Verge found a way to unlock the new 280-character limit right now using Chrome and a little light coding. Web developer Juliette Pretot has provided an even simpler option on her website. Twitter may decide to block these workarounds, but they seem to work for the moment if you want to impress your followers.
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
What does this mean for Twitter?
With this update, Twitter is mostly responding to what its users have already demonstrated they want from the social network. Longer tweets will make the service easier to use so you don't need to edit down a post to cram it into 140 characters. That should encourage more people to use Twitter and to tweet more often.
Twitter also explained that its character limit is actually more restricting depending on what language you're writing in. For example, nine per cent of all tweets written in English are 140 characters long, but in Japanese only 0.4 per cent reach the old limit. So this update could help Twitter boost use in some countries (including Australia) and expand into others.
Then again, longer tweets could also bog down the Twitter experience by replacing quick jokes and comments with larger chunks of text. Longer tweets are also a slippery slope. Now that we've ditched the 140-character limit, what's to stop the company from expanding to 1000 characters or removing the character limit completely?
Of course, any time a social network announces a big change, people find a reason to complain. But most of the time, we get used to it after a few months. That's probably what will happen here, too.
In the meantime, the Twitter community is doing what it does best: Making jokes.
The 280-character limit is a terrible idea. The whole beauty of Twitter is that it forces you to express your ideas concisely (1/47)
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) September 26, 2017