Twitter now lets you tweet 280-character updates

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
Twitter announced on Tuesday is was officially doubling the character count for tweets in most countries.

Ever since Jack Dorsey sent out his first tweet in March 2006, Twitter (TWTR) has been synonymous with a pithy 140-character limit. Now the social network is changing that.

Twitter on Tuesday announced it would officially allow the majority of users to tweet updates up to 280 characters long moving forward — double the previous amount. In a company blog post, Twitter Product Manager Aliza Rosen explained the new character limit would apply to all languages except for Japanese, Chinese and Korean, because those languages already allow their native speakers to convey roughly twice the amount of information in one character compared with many other languages, including English, Spanish and Portuguese. Tuesday’s announcement essentially puts users outside Japan, China and Korea on equal footing. 

Rosen pointed out that people who might be concerned their Twitter streams timeline would look drastically different needn’t worry. During its five-week or so test run, Twitter found that just 5% of the tweets from those users were actually longer than 140 characters, with 2% pushing 190 characters. And even if the social network saw a significant influx of longer tweets after Tuesday’s announcement, Rosen pointed out that current tweets with an image or poll already take up more space than a 190-character tweet.

Twitter’s latest move is a watershed moment for the publicly traded company, which posted better-than-expected earnings and revenue growth during its most recent quarter but struggled with sluggish user growth in more recent quarters.

When Twitter began testing the 280-word limit back in September, Altimeter Group analyst Susan Etlinger told Yahoo Finance that it was an attempt to recapture a little of the magic it had five years ago, before bots and polarizing political discussions became a mainstay on the social network. That veritable political morass can be fatiguing for many users seeking more lighthearted, witty banter versus seemingly heated exchanges over President Donald Trump’s latest maneuverings.

“Now it feels like walking into traffic on a freeway to get on Twitter,” Etlinger quipped. However she thinks giving users more space to express themselves within a tweet is good move on Twitter’s part.  

Added Etlinger: “This is a way to add a little more nuance and richness without going overboard and undermining the fun of Twitter, which is that you do have to edit yourself.”

In previous years, reports surfaced that Twitter was exploring increasing the character limit for tweets — reports Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey quashed by calling the 140-character limit “a beautiful constraint.”

Now, for the most part, that constraint is no more.

JP Mangalindan is Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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