Twitter to let people use far more than 140 characters in tweets

Twitter will no longer force everyone to write their posts in 140 characters.

The site will now give people twice the space – a full 280 characters – to write their messages.

The change is currently an experiment but is likely to be rolled out to all Twitter users soon.

It said it had made the decision to stop people being frustrated by cramming their tweets into a small space. And the original justification for the limit – that the posts needed to fit into an SMS message – is no longer needed.

Twitter decided to change the limit after looking at the way people tweet in different languages, it said. In Japanese and some other languages, which use symbols, tweets can be posted much more easily because characters hold much more information.

Twitter decided to add the extra space so that people can “easily express themselves” wherever they are, and to try and prevent people cramming. As such, it won’t be rolled out in languages that don’t have to cram already – Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

For instance, only 0.4 per cent of Japanese tweets use all 140 characters; in English, 9 per cent of tweets use the full allocation. Most Japanese tweets take up only 15 characters, while the average English tweet is 34 characters long.

Twitter has looked to increase the character account in various ways before. It has already taken various things out of consideration, for instance – if a tweet includes people’s usernames, images or other media, then those parts won’t be included as part of the character account.

When it emerged last year that it was considering abandoning the famous character limit and instead allow people to post up to 10,000 characters, a host of users and celebrities posted that Twitter was now dead and vowed to stop using it. The site didn’t implement that change.

Twitter acknowledged that the brevity may come with an “emotional attachment” and said that its engineers feel the same thing. “But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint,” they wrote.

For now, the expanded tweets are only available to a “small group”, Twitter said. But if it is successful – if, for example, it stops people abandoning their tweets halfway through writing them – then it will be rolled out for everyone.

“Although we feel confident about our data and the positive impact this change will have, we want to try it out with a small group of people before we make a decision to launch to everyone,” a Twitter blog post reads. “What matters most is that this works for our community – we will be collecting data and gathering feedback along the way.

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