Thursday 23 November 2017

Twitter to permanently double the length of tweets after experiment

Twitter stock
Twitter stock
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Twitter is to permanently double the length of tweets from 140 characters to 280 characters.

The company is loosening its word limit after feedback showing that those in their 280-character experimental group got more retweets, likes and followers when they got more space.

But Twitter insists that giving users twice the character limit won’t make the service a repository for bores.

"We were concerned that timelines may fill up with 280 character Tweets and that people with the new limit would always use up the whole space," said Aliza Rosen, a product manager with Twitter.

"But that didn’t happen [during the experimental period]. Only 5pc of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2pc were over 190 characters. As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change, you’ll still see about the same amount of Tweets in your timeline."

The move will be greeted with delight by politicians, advocates and online pundits, many of whom crave extra space on Twitter to make longer arguments.

At present, the character-limitation encourages ‘threads’, where multiple tweets are linked to form the equivalent of a blog post.

"In addition to more Tweeting, people who had more room to Tweet received more engagement [likes, retweets and ‘@’ mentions], got more followers and spent more time on Twitter," said Ms Rosen.

"People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content, and Twitter overall."

However, Twitter executives insist that on a small minority of tweets will actually use up the extra word count.

"Historically, 9pc of Tweets in English hit the character limit," said Ms Rosen.

"This reflects the challenge of fitting a thought into a Tweet, often resulting in lots of time spent editing and even at times abandoning Tweets before sending. With the expanded character count, this problem was massively reduced.

"That number dropped to only 1pc of Tweets running up against the limit. Since we saw Tweets hit the character limit less often, we believe people spent less time editing their Tweets in the composer.

"This shows that more space makes it easier for people to fit thoughts in a Tweet, so they could say what they want to say, and send Tweets faster than before.”

Nevertheless, the company is warning that Twitter users will probably use their extra characters at first.

"It’s worth emphasising again that people in the test got very excited about the extra space in the beginning and many Tweets went way beyond 140," said Ms Rosen.

"People did silly and creative things like writing just a few characters per line to make their Tweets extra large. It was a temporary effect and didn’t last long.

"We expect to see some of this novelty effect spike again with this week’s launch and expect it to resume to normal behavior soon after."

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