27/09/2017

# Interesting!

Twitter is testing an extended character limit of 280 characters for all languages that experience character "cramming" where 140 just isn't enough to adequately express yourself.

Having gotten used to a 280 character limit on micro.blog I can honestly say it makes a world of difference.

What's really interesting about the decision is that the 140 character limit was always seen as sacrosanct, one of the immutable laws of Twitter. The company was so set on this, much to the annoyance of many, that it was considered to be holding the network back.

"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"

The change is couched in terms of ensuring that users in all languages get the same opportunity to express themselves when compared to pictographic languages like Japanese and Chinese but this hasn't been an issue for the company for the past 11 years.

So why now?

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# There are a lot of mixed feelings out there about Twitter testing the new 280 character limit.

On the one hand you have those who feel 140 characters defines Twitter, makes it what it is and keeps it simple. Alternatively, there are those who have been calling for an increase for ages.

Aside from the whole "Twitter is 140, 140 is Twitter" thing, the most common argument in favour of retaining the lower limit is to standardise the stream, to keep "stream units" consistent.

But this is a hollow argument.

Embedding images, videos, various types of "cards" in tweets, and quote tweets - not to mention Twitter's own native ad units - has meant that the notion of a standard tweet or unit has not been a reality for ages.

It seems strange clinging to the idea that tweets are all presented uniformly when this doesn't reflect how the stream looks or works, and hasn't done for years.

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COLOPHON
Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog