Twitter Expands Its Character Count

By Tracey Dowdy

Last week Twitter announced it would be increasing the number of characters allowed from 140 to 280.

“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!” wrote Twitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey in an expanded, new-format tweet.

Apparently, the decision was based on research by Twitter that found users can communicate twice the amount of information per character in languages such as Korean and Chinese, as opposed to English, Spanish or French.

Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen stated in a blogpost, “Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people Tweeting in English, but it is not for those Tweeting in Japanese. 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.”

Since it was founded in 2006, Twitter has limited the character count to 140 characters. Last year, they made an exception for quote tweets, or tweets that included a photo, GIF, video or poll.

Any time Twitter has made changes, there’s been a level of backlash from users. Switching to an algorithmic timeline, removing Twitter handles from replies, and switching from a star icon to a heart to “like” a Tweet have sometimes resulted in users pushing back.

Some users have already weighed in on the change, many hilariously. Chrissy Teigan said, “Literally my only talent was being able to think of tweets exactly 140 characters long. I don’t know if I will be able to alter this to 280.”

Others felt as though execs were once again ignoring the bigger issue of addressing the trolling and hate mongering often found on Twitter. User @nickbaker said, “Twitter users: Stop racists, stop hate crime, stop bots, we want a chronological timeline and an edit function…Twitter: 280 characters!”

Twitter is currently beta-testing the new feature with a select group of users users before deciding whether to launch it to 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,” Rosen said.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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