Brevity and beyond: Twitter to trial 280-character tweets

Microblogging platform to invite some users to go beyond current 140-character limit

Just 0.4 per cent of tweets written in Japanese hit the current 140-character limit compared to 9 per cent of those in English

Just 0.4 per cent of tweets written in Japanese hit the current 140-character limit compared to 9 per cent of those in English

 

There is good news on the horizon for those who find it hard to express themselves in a tweet.

Twitter is to invite a random group of users to trial longer messages so that those who struggle to cram their thoughts into a succinct, pithy comment can tweet away to their hearts content.

The microblogging site has announced plans to allow users writing in some languages to try a longer limit, 280 character tweet.

The decision comes following research from Twitter that shows that users tweeting in European languages such as English, Spanish, French and Portuguese typically use considerably more characters than those tweeting in Japanese, Korean or Chinese.

In fact, just 0.4 per cent of tweets written in Japanese hit the current 140-character limit compared to 9 per cent of those in English.

This is largely due to the fact that users in Asian languages can convey about double the amount of information in one character as those in European languages. So for example, most Japanese tweets are 15 characters in length while English ones are typically 34.

In a blog post published on Tuesday, Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen and senior software engineer Ikuhiro Ihara said the company’s research showed the current 140-character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in some languages, hence the company’s decision to trial a longer tweet.

Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey last year dismissed reports the company was working on a feature that would allow tweets as long as 10,000 characters. He said at the time the 140-character limit was a good constraint as it allowed for “of-the-moment brevity”.

In the blogpost published on Tuesday, Twitter said it was aware that some users might be upset by any moves to change character limits, it said the change could be of benefit to those using the microblogging platform.

“Although we feel confident about our data and the positive impact this change will have, we want to try it out with a small group of people before we make a decision to launch to everyone. What matters most is that this works for our community - we will be collecting data and gathering feedback along the way. We’re hoping fewer Tweets run into the character limit, which should make it easier for everyone to Tweet,” Ms Rosen and Mr Ihara said in their blogpost.

“Twitter is about brevity. It’s what makes it such a great way to see what’s happening. Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter. That is something we will never change. 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,” they added.

Twitter currently has 328 million users worldwide. Over 380,000 adults aged 15 and over in the Republic use Twitter on a daily basis, according to recent figures from Ipsos MRBI.