Twitter to allow longer tweets by removing photos and usernames from character limit
Published 24/05/2016 | 15:43
Twitter has relaxed its famous 140-character limit to exclude photos and videos, in a major upheaval of how the social network’s bite-size tweets are displayed.
The change means that Twitter users will be able to fit more words into tweets that have previously been limited when they wanted to add media such as photos, videos or polls.
Loosening the character count is the biggest change of a series of new features announced on Tuesday. They come as part of a radical upheaval of Twitter under Jack Dorsey, the company’s founder who returned as chief executive last year. As Twitter’s growth has slowed, Dorsey is trying to make the service more accessible to users who find it difficult to get their heads around its often-confusing conventions.
Twitter conversations are also being changed. When replying to another user’s tweet, the “@username” at the beginning will disappear, allowing users to fit more text into their 140-character replies.
Meanwhile, tweets that begin by mentioning a user, but are not replies to other tweets, will now be visible in all followers’ timelines. Previously, only users who followed both accounts would see these, leading to the strange convention of “.@” tweets, which began with the full stop to ensure that all followers would be see them.
The changes essentially mean the 140 character limit, which was originally linked to text messaging limits, now refer just to the text of a tweet, rather than additional media or the people the tweets are directed at. They were first reported last week but confirmed by Twitter on Tuesday.
Additionally, Twitter users will be able to retweet and quote their own tweets.
Removing photos, videos, GIFs and polls from the character limit is the latest move that reflects how Twitter has changed since it was launched a decade ago. Initially, photos would be uploaded using third party services like yfrog or Instagram, which were shared on Twitter as hyperlinks.
Twitter then allowed users to upload their own photos and videos, and would preview the pictures within tweets, but the links to these were still included within the 140-character limit. Now, a huge proportion of tweets contain pictures and videos, so Twitter has made them exempt from the limit.
“One of the things we’re committed to doing is refining the product,” said Dara Nasr, the head of Twitter UK. “At the moment, if you’ve written the perfect tweet and attached a photo you can be over the character count. We don’t want users to get frustrated.”
Removing Twitter handles from the character limit reply tweets will allow threads involving far more users, up to 50 at a time, said Nasr.
"One of the biggest priorities for this year is to refine our product and make it simpler," said Dorsey.
"We're focused on making Twitter a whole lot easier and faster. This is what Twitter is great at – what's happening now, live conversation and the simplicity that we started the service with."