After trialling it out with a handful of users, Twitter has increased the maximum length of tweets from 140 characters to 280, for all users.
Some people expressed concern over how the additional capacity will be used by the trolls and harassers that litter the platform. Others have talked about the creative challenge of expressing ideas in 140 characters or less.
Jack Dorsey, himself, argued that the 140-characters constraint would inspire creativity and lead to a very particular type of communication, in his talk at the Oxford Union:
Since there were so many complaints on my timeline about the change, and since the 280 characters are here to stay, I thought that it would be worth considering the advantages of this extended allowance.
Good for those writing in the Roman alphabet
As the chart below shows, Twitter users who write with the Roman alphabet (i.e., A, b, c, etc…) are more likely to reach the 140-characters’ limit than those who write with logographic alphabets (e.g., Japanese characters). Hence, the additional characters will make it easier to provide detail in informative tweets, and/or add emotion (e.g., using adjectives) in persuasive ones.
Good for those in hurry
Even though Jack Dorsey argued in that Oxford Union talk that more characters would lead users to consider carefully what they were posting (i.e., focus on saying the right thing), as opposed to firing their thoughts quickly (or ‘off the cuff’, as he says), my experience is that it often took a lot of time and effort to fit even a simple message within the 140-characters limit. Whilst this was not a problem for most messages, it became one when I needed to provide details – such as the date, time and title of an event that I wishes to promote. So, it should be helpful for those of us with limited time – e.g., commuters, small companies, and so on.
Good for those studying Twitter conversations
A challenge with studying Twitter conversations – for instance, for sentiment analysis – is that the conversations lack context and detail because the messages are so short. Sometimes, Twitter users break down an idea into a series of tweets – called a thread – but these aren’t always easy to follow, particularly if you are using automated tools. Moreover, words might be abbreviated, misspelled, or replaced by emojis, emoticons or links to convey as much information as possible in the limited space available. That is, the longer tweets could provide a little bit more information within a single post, and that could reduce the instances of misinterpretation, particularly when using automated analysis.
What about you? Are you happy with this change?