Twitter has announced today that it has began testing 280-character tweets, doubling the previous character limit, in an effort to help users be more expressive. In a blog, the company said that their research shows them that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English. “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting — which is awesome!”
he 140-character limit was originally established to reflect the length of SMS messages, which was how tweets were distributed prior to the development of mobile apps. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters; Twitter reserved the remaining 20 for the username. As often happens in creative mediums, the constraint spurred creativity, and Twitter became a fast-moving, newsy, jokey, weirdo playground.
Twitter has considered expanding the tweet length for years. By the end of 2015, the company was moving closer toward introducing tweets of up to 10,000 characters. This was being developed simultaneously with a new ranked timeline, which would depart from the purely chronological feed in favor of one that attempted to show users the best tweets first. But both options seemed controversial, so in 2016, it introduced an optional ranked timeline that showed “the best tweets first,” followed by tweets in the standard reverse-chronological order. It also expanded tweets by not counting media attachments against the character limit.
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
“We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters — we felt it, too,” the company said in its blog post. “But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint. We are excited to share this today, and we will keep you posted about what we see and what comes next.”