★ Twitter Tests Expanding Limit to 280 Characters in Most Languages (Sep 26, 2017)
Twitter has just made the surprise announcement that it’s testing expanding the 140-character limit that’s characterized the service from its inception to 280 characters in all languages except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, which make far more efficient use of characters. Various people have suggested expanding the Twitter limit over time as a way to make the service more useful and less frustrating, but the 140-character limit has been a defining feature, forcing brevity and making streams of tweets very easy to consume. Even just looking at the first few 280-character tweets I’ve seen from Twitter executives has broken up my feed and forced a mental shift in my consumption. There’s something magical about the 140 character limit which makes the vast majority of tweets inherently glanceable in a way a 280 character tweet never will be. I continue to maintain that expanding the character limit and other superficial changes are peripheral to the real changes Twitter needs to make to go more mainstream – those changes instead need to revolve around getting beyond the account-by-account following model. This is a bold step for Twitter (albeit one still in testing) but it feels like it misses the mark in terms of making Twitter more useful. I’d argue that if removing constraints was the focus, Twitter should have found a way to attach longer blocks of text to tweets natively instead – that would have replaced the many screenshots of text people post, which aren’t searchable or readable by accessibility software, without breaking the fundamental model. Personally, I’m not a fan, but more importantly, I’m skeptical this will actually improve the Twitter experience in ways which lead to more usage and most importantly more users, which continues to be one of Twitter’s biggest challenges.
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