New limit effectively doubles site size

By John Eche

 

What effect will Twitter’s decision to double its trademark character limit from 140 to 280 characters have on its users?

 

This is the question on the lips of users as the social messaging site got set to formally flag off the extension, Tuesday.

 

This is coming on the heels of news that Twitter is rolling out 280-character tweets to all users except those who tweet in Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

 

The company said cramming isn’t an issue in these languages, because the “density of their writing systems” allow people to say a lot more with fewer characters.

 

According to Twitter, 9 per cent of English-language tweets hit the 140-character mark, compared to just 0.4 per cent of tweets sent in Japanese.

 

After the site expanded its limit to 280 characters for a small group of users in September, it found that only 1 per cent of their tweets reached the new limit.

 

“Since we saw tweets hit the character limit less often, we believe people spent less time editing their tweets in the composer,” said Twitter project manager Aliza Rosen.

 

“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.”

 

Twitter said it feared that users who got to test the 280-character limit would always use up their entire allowance, but that didn’t happen.

 

Just 5 per cent of the tweets they sent were longer than 140 characters, 2 per cent went over 190 characters, and the site said its “brevity” remained.

 

“As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change, you’ll still see about the same amount of tweets in your timeline,” added Ms Rosen.

 

However, the company expects people to initially get “very excited” about the extra space and do “silly (creative!) things like writing just a few characters per line to make their tweets extra large”, as early testers did, until the novelty wears off.

 

“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 behaviour soon after,” Twitter said.

 

The company also said the people who have had access to 280-character tweets received more likes, retweets and mentions, got more followers and spent more time on Twitter as a result.

 

“We are making this change after listening and observing a problem our global community was having (it wasn’t easy enough to tweet!), studying data to understand how we could improve, trying it out, and listening to your feedback,” said Twitter.

 

“We’ll continue listening and working to make Twitter easier for everyone while making sure we keep what you love.”

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