“It’s staying,” Twitter chief Jack Dorsey said last year of the platform’s 140-character limit. Well, it appears the company has had a change of heart, as it’s now testing a 280-character limit.
The expanded tweet format is “only available to a small group right now,” according to product manager Aliza Rosen. “What matters most is that this works for our community—we will be collecting data and gathering feedback along the way.”
Why the change? Rozen pointed to languages that allow people to express themselves in fewer characters. With “languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French,” Rozen wrote in a blog post.
As a result, English speakers like Rozen find themselves removing words or not sending a tweet at all. “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,” she wrote.
Japanese Tweets are typically 15 characters versus English tweets, which have 34. “In all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting,” he said.
For a company that has struggled with growth, developing a more engaged community is a must. At the end of the last quarter, it had 328 million monthly active users (68 million in the US), the same as the previous quarter. Compare that to 2.01 billion monthly active Facebook users as of June 30.
Rozen acknowledged that people might have an “emotional attachment” to 140 characters. “We felt it, too,” she wrote. “But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.”
Twitter has made a few small changes to the character limit over the years. Last year, it announced that photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets would not count toward a user’s 140-character limit. Earlier this month, there were reports that Twitter was testing a “tweetstorm” function; where one user sends out multiple tweets in quick succession to get across their message, hopefully in a thread. The reported tweetstorm function would take a block of text and automatically split them into separate tweets.