Twitter is experimenting with l-o-n-g 280-character tweets

The 140-character limit has always been Twitter's defining characteristic, and enforced brevity sometimes produced a certain amount of wit. Now, however, the company is experimenting with tweets that are exactly twice as long....
Written by Jack Schofield, Contributor on
Jack Dorsey's long tweet

Jack Dorsey used a 280-character tweet to announce that Twitter was trying out 280-character tweets...

Twitter's brevity has always been part of its charm. Originally, the length was limited to 140 characters, to make sure tweets would fit in an SMS text message. This made them easy to scan in batches, and no matter how boring the tweeter, nothing went on too long.

But Twitter has noticed that some languages have more problems than others, as it explained in a blog post. English language tweets, for example, are on average more than twice as long as tweets in Japanese: 34 characters vs 15. Also, many more English tweets run to the limit: 9 percent vs 0.4 percent.

Twitter says: "We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we're doing something new: we're going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming (which is all except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean)."

The new limit will be tested among a small number of users - a single-digit percentage - including some chosen at random. Twitter will then evaluate feedback before deciding what to do. However, it seems highly unlikely that Twitter will drop the idea unless there is massive resistance or it runs into technical problems.

Yes, there will be - already is - a backlash on Twitter, but these things tend to blow over fairly quickly. Only sustained pressure might make a difference.

What is already clear is that ordinary users will be able to read extended tweets. Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey posted a long tweet to announce long tweets. He wrote: "This is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence!"

It looks like a lot of words, but as Richard Cosgrove handily confirmed, it really is 280 characters.

It's a long way from Dorsey's opening tweet on 21 March 2006, which simply read: "just setting up my twttr".

Jack Dorsey's tweet edited

Caitlin Kelly has already edited Jack Dorsey's tweet to fit....

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