Twitter goes for verbosity as 280-character limit becomes standard

Doubling of original character limit becomes a permanent feature after three-month trial

Twitter has decided to make permanent a new 280-character limit on tweets. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Twitter has decided to make permanent a new 280-character limit on tweets. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire


Brevity may be the soul of wit, but Twitter is betting that an extra few characters wouldn’t go amiss.

The platform has long stuck to a 140-character limit, based on the length of a text message, but began trialling longer tweets with some users in September. The test has been so successful, Twitter said, that it will now become a permanent feature.

From Tuesday, those users who struggled to cram their thoughts into 140 characters will get 280 characters to express themselves. Japanese, Chinese and Korean are the only languages that will retain the original length, as space wasn’t an issue for these languages.

Twitter’s product manager Aliza Rosen said the aim was to make it easy for users to express themselves.

“Our goal was to make this possible while ensuring we keep the speed and brevity that makes Twitter, Twitter,” Ms Rosen said.

If you’ve ever slaved over the perfect tweet, only to find you are two characters over with nowhere obvious to trim them from, you might welcome the move. But not everyone was happy with the change. Some lamented the loss of the 140-character limit and thought it would destroy the soul of Twitter, turning it into an altogether more irritating platform.

It still might. When the trial initially kicked off, some users granted the extra space made the most of it, tweeting wordy jokes.

Once the novelty of the extended space wore off, Ms Rosen said, most people still came in under the 140 mark. But for the small number of tweets that needed extra space, the change meant users could tweet more easily and more often.

Abandoning tweets

Before the trial of lengthier tweets, Twitter said about 9 per cent of those in English hit the character limit. That meant extra time editing, with some users abandoning tweets. After the 280 characters was introduced, that figure fell to 1 per cent, Ms Rosen said.

“We – and many of you – were concerned that timelines may fill up with 280 character tweets, and people with the new limit would always use up the whole space. But that didn’t happen,” she said. “Only 5 per cent of tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2 per cent were over 190 characters.”

Aside from convenience, there is another reason to embrace the new lengthier tweets. According to Ms Rosen, those who had more room also got more engagement on the platform, with likes, retweets and mentions going up, and also got more followers.

Twitter has made a number of changes in a bid to make it easier for users to express themselves, and encourage people to stay on the platform. That includes shortening links, changing the reply system to remove user names from the character count, and discounting photos, gifs and quoted tweets from the overall tweet length.

However, the latest move has led to criticism, with some saying Twitter should be focusing on solving the persistent problem of abuse and bots on the platform.

Automated accounts have been blamed for spreading misinformation on the platform during the US presidential election. The company has made some moves to try to tackle the problem, but critics have argued that it’s not enough.