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It's official - Twitter will let users 'express even more in 140 characters'

Harshith Mallya
25th May 2016
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There is no doubt about the usefulness and ubiquity of Twitter - an estimated 320 million monthly active users generate over 500 million tweets a day. Though it has a very active niche userbase, Twitter's 140 character limit is estimated to be one of the reasons why it lags behind other giants like Facebook. With its value in public markets, slipping from a 2013 high of $40 billion to around $10 billion in February 2016, Twitter has been looking for growth hacks and integrations to make its platform more appealing to the general public.

After a month of speculation, Twitter on Tuesday night confirmed that it was tweaking its 140-character tweet limit.

jackdorsey
Jack Dorsey-CEO, Twitter

What's new?

In the coming months Twitter will officially roll out changes to simplify tweets including what counts toward the 140 characters. So for instance, @names in replies and media attachments (like photos, GIFs, videos, and polls) will no longer “use up” characters. Here are the main changes-

  • Replies: When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. This is intended to make conversations on Twitter easier and more straightforward.
  • Media attachments: Currently photos on Twitter take up 24 characters. But going forward, Twitter will no longer count media attachments such as photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or quote tweets in the character limit.
  • Retweet and Quote Tweet yourself: Twitter will also be enabling the Retweet button on a user's own Tweets, to let users Retweet or quote their own tweet when they want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed.
  • Goodbye, .@: Twitter users will no longer have to use the ”.@” convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly. If users want a reply to be seen by all their followers, they will be able to Retweet it to signal the intention for it to be viewed more broadly. These changes are aimed at simplifying the rules around Tweets that start with a username.

Related read: The story of a $6B tweet and other facts about Twitter

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Twitter also released a separate blogpost for developers and outlined four main areas which would be impacted as a result of recent changes.

Backward and forward compatibility for third party clients and other API users are our primary considerations....... To support these changes, there will also be a few new options on API endpoints that create or consume Tweets.

It'll take some time to see the impact of these changes in terms of driving more users to Twitter and boosting the company growth and revenues. Over the past decade, Twitter has constantly added multiple new features and integrations. The now famous hashtag too was originally not a part of Twitter's lexicon. Some of the important updates from the past include- poll your community, react quickly and cleverly with GIFs, and abilitiy to share Periscope broadcasts in Tweets- which are all widely accepted features now.

A Recode report from January suggests that Twitter is even considering a 10,000-Character limit for tweets. But since Twitter's appeal is as a micro-blogging platform, a 10,000-character limit may actually dilute its ubiquity and confuse novice users even more. So Twitter may have to tread cautious ground as it rolls out new updates and judge the pulse of its users.

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