Twitter Considers Higher Character Limit for Tweets

Can Longer Tweets Save Twitter?
  • Company experimenting with changes to help lure new users
  • Long-time aficionados say long tweets would kill key feature

Twitter Inc. may be preparing to raise its character limit for tweets to the thousands from the current 140, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The maximum number of characters in a post could be raised to as much as 10,000, said the person, who asked not be identified as the changes haven’t been decided. A tweet that long would be roughly equal to a 20-minute speech. The number could be half that, depending on how users respond to trials, the person said.

Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, who has been pushing the company to make the service more engaging, confirmed that Twitter is looking at new ways to display text, while adding that he expects most tweets to remain “short and sweet and conversational.” He noted that people are already sharing longer messages by posting screenshots of text, and that the company will experiment based on what people are currently doing.

“We’re not going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people,” he said on Twitter. “As long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.”

Last month, Twitter began testing a new order that shows users the most relevant tweets first, instead of the usual format of displaying posts in reverse chronological order. In August, Twitter removed the 140-character limit for direct private messages sent between users. Dorsey, also a founder, has emphasized that the team should consider all options for making the product better, and that no features are sacred.

No Limits

Twitter originally adopted the 140-character limit because that was within the cut-off point for mobile text messages -- a common way of sharing posts when the service debuted in 2006, a year before the first iPhone went on sale. Now people on smartphones and tablets are using Twitter in new, richer ways. Twitter is full of links to longer content, screenshots of articles, and, more obnoxiously, the tweetstorm: numbered tweets sent in rapid succession to complete a full argument or story. Dorsey said the company is experimenting with ways to share screenshots with text that is searchable.

The site is often peppered with user complaints that the 140-character limit keeps people from saying everything they want to say. Still, the rule has set Twitter apart from other social-media sites, prompting its users to be concise and creative with their thoughts. Many longtime users criticized the possible change to longer tweets, saying it would take away Twitter’s most defining characteristic.

Re/code reported earlier on Tuesday that Twitter was considering the new limit. Aly Pavela, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Twitter, declined to comment.

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