More Room to Tweet – Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit
May 17, 2016
Back in January, there were various reports that Twitter was working on a plan to expand the tweet length limit. And while those initial experiments haven't yet come to fruition, a report on Bloomberg today suggests that tweets are about to get a length limit - of sorts, anyway.
According to Bloomberg, Twitter will soon stop counting photos and links in the 140-character limit for tweets. That means you’ll have an extra 23 to 24 (links and photos respectively) characters to work with, while you’ll still be able to add in links and images to enhance your message.
As noted, a lifting of the tweet length limit has been in discussion for some time, with CEO Jack Dorsey himself adding fuel to the fire with this tweet back in January.
And while many believe that expanding the tweet character limit would erode the core differentiator of the service, this new update is another step in that direction. A safe step, in that it’s changing very little to the Twitter experience, but a step nonetheless.
Worth noting, too, that even in their initial discussions of an expansion to the tweet limit, Twitter made it clear that your timeline was not suddenly going to get clogged-up with massive tweets that took up an entire window – the extended tweets, according to reports, would still be shown in the timeline as normal, but they’d have a ‘Show More’ type option at the end of the 140 character limit, which would enable users to expand the full message.
Today’s announcement comes as Twitter looks for something – anything – to help them boost engagement and get their engagement and growth rates back on track. As part of their most recent earnings announcement, Twitter showed that their monthly active user rate was virtually static, with no growth at all in their core US market.
The platform had hoped the addition of new features like Moments and the introduction of an algorithm-defined timeline could help stimulate growth, but as yet neither innovation's added anything significant to bottom line results. The switch to longer tweets – even in a minor capacity – is another change to try and appease users and generate more activity on the platform. And given that a growing number of users are sending screenshots of text anyway, providing more ways for users to expand their tweets, if they so desire, could be a good option.
At least with this change, they’re adding to the tweet length without upsetting users by changing the functionality beyond its established limitations – a minor, but safe, compromise.
Although, even then, you already know how users will respond.
“Instead of extending tweets, why not give us an edit tweet option instead?”
This is the most commonly requested feature, and it’s a constant headache for Twitter - something the three founders recently discussed as part of the platform’s 10th birthday celebrations. The reason they won’t add this functionality is because of how easy it is to alter the context of a tweet, given its brevity, in retrospect. But adding a minor change like removing links from the total character count only seems to poke frustrated users who are calling for the edit function, so expect to see those comments to increase in response.
Also, it’ll be interesting to see, if links are no longer included in the character count, how many links you can add. Images are capped at four by the system, but you can add in as many links as you like. If they aren’t included in the count, Twitter will need to have a system which detects and restricts their use - otherwise it won’t take long for spammers to work out how to hijack your attention with massive, link-riddled tweets.