Is Twitter’s new Character Limit an Upgrade?

Is Twitter’s new Character Limit an Upgrade?

On November 7th, 2017, Twitter did what it had been deliberating over for years: doubling its 140-character limit. Finally, users could finish their thoughts in a single tweet. Sounds great! Well, not to everyone.

The Story

First, though, let’s discuss Twitter’s reasoning behind the change. This isn’t going to be a long story. Basically, the company found that a decent chunk of its users tweets (around nine per cent) hit 140 characters. To make their experiences less stressful, they believed that expanding this limit to 280 characters was the logical thing to do. During the new format’s trial run in September, Twitter found that only one per cent of tweets hit the 280-character limit. Finally, Twitter users were given room to breathe.

A Divided User Base

People’s reactions to the change were mixed. While many people felt happy about being given more character space to work with, others weren’t so chipper. Those who oppose it have deemed the move contradictory to what Twitter stands for. That is to say, a source of concise, easy-to-swallow posts. If posts become too voluminous, some argue, it could bog down the site with unnecessary content (although Twitter stated that timeline reading experiences shouldn’t change that much).

Interestingly, most people didn’t take advantage of the added character limit during the September trial run. In fact, only two per cent of tweets posted during that time exceeded 190 characters. Plus, those who did surpass that tended to fill their tweets with irrelevant content because it was a novel experience. So, does this ultimately make Twitter’s long-awaited change pointless? Not inherently. It seems that most users aren’t peeved about the character limit change per se, but rather that it apparently eclipsed other issues the site has been accused of. These include allegations of harassment and abuse that take place on the site. As a result, some users fear internet bullies will be able to attack others more easily with 280 characters.

It will be interesting to see how this controversy plays out in the coming months. But despite the inevitable backlash to the change, it’s nice to know there’s room to say what you need to say on Twitter without feeling forced to sacrifice content. Besides, at no point has Twitter mandated that all tweets have to meet the new 280-character limit. It just gives its users elbow room to do so if needed, and even if it doesn’t solve all of Twitter’s problems, it still seems like a pretty solid upgrade.




Greg Plante
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