Twitter to double character limit for tweets to 280 in global trial

Twitter has confirmed it is considering a move away from hallmark 140-character limit

Twitter has confirmed it is considering a move away from its hallmark 140-character limit, saying it will soon begin testing a 280-character limit for a select number of users across the world.

The move to double the amount of characters comes over a year since the rumour mill first went into overdrive that the platform was set to increase the limit in some way.

For now, the company has stressed that the change will only apply to a "small group of users" in countries where users are impacted by tweet "cramming" – aka the inability to fully express themselves on Twitter, or having to remove words from posts in order to do so.

This issue is more prevalent in some languages than others and the company said the increase won't be trialed in Japanese, Chinese or Korean versions of the app. Only 0.4% of tweets sent in Japanese use the full 140 characters, however in English 9% of tweets hit the limit.

Twitter said its research shows the current 140-character limit is "a major cause of frustration" for users in certain markets. To give an idea of the discrepancies between the space different alphabets take up in the timeline, here's how the same tweet currently looks in three different languages.

Today's move was announced in a blog post where Twitter's product manager Aliza Rosen explained that the shift was designed to let users better communicate on Twitter, and that the new constraint would initially be tested out via a testing pool before Twitter makes a final decision to roll it out universally.

“What matters most is that this works for our community – we will be collecting data and gathering feedback along the way. We’re hoping fewer tweets run into the character limit, which should make it easier for everyone to tweet,” Rosen said.

Twitter users are notoriously protective of the platform, and when previous rumours about relaxing the limit emerged many were quick to dismiss any move away from the site's USP as negative.

Prepared for a backlash over the tests, Twitter said in the announcement: "We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. 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."

Since returning as chief executive in 2016, Jack Dorsey has made several major changes to Twitter, placing a renewed focus on events and live-streaming.

Earlier this year, the firm announced it would stop counting photos and links as part of the 140-character limit.

Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

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