twitter tests doubling 140 limit to 280 character tweets

By Chris Dawson September 27, 2017 - 11:52 am

In the biggest change since you could attach an image to a tweet, twitter are to test doubling the number of characters you can include in a tweet from 140 to 280.

The original 140 character limit came when twitter founder Jack Dorsey decided a limit should be slightly shorter than that for a SMS mobile text message, which is 160 characters. Today you’re probably not even aware of the limit for text messages as mobile technology has moved on and longer text messages are simply chopped up, sent as separate messages and reconstructed as a single message at the destination. If you’ve got a 20 year old mobile phone (pre-smartphone era) you’ll still see this if you send yourself a long message as it’ll update as each segment comes through.

What’s happened with twitter is that as users signed up in different countries and twitter supported more languages the number of characters is less important to some people. For instance in Japenese it’s rare for a tweet to exceed 15 characters, compared to an average of 34 in English, as a single Japanese character can be a whole word. In Spanish, 140 characters in English typically would translate to 154 characters in Spanish less content can be contained in a single tweet.

twitter announced this week that they would be testing 280 character tweets for a ‘small group’ of people to see if it has a positive result.

“We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.”
– twitter

twitter has become the forgotten social media platform as it’s lagging behind the likes of Facebook for advertising. Facebook have introduced buy/sell groups and Facebook Marketplace and, whilst it’s still not comparable to eBay or Amazon, there are indications of future potential. twitter is way behind so needs to make itself more relevant in today’s world. Will increasing the number of characters in the same way that SMS text messages can be longer work? Only time will tell.

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