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Will Twitter go ‘Beyond 140’?

Josephine Keller, Social Media Manager

The author

Josephine Keller

Social Media Manager

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey caused a storm on the social platform this week when he tweeted suggesting that Twitter may well increase the 140 character limit to 10,000.

Since becoming the interim CEO of Twitter in July 2015, Dorsey has seen the introduction of several changes to the platform. These include the curated news tab Twitter Moments, and most recently a hint of a change to the direct message character limit. Dorsey’s tweet in itself is an example of why some users may prefer the longer limit.

Posting a screenshot of text, Dorsey states that time has been spent observing how users are interacting on the platform and that many have taken to screenshotting text and posting it as an image, in order to get around the character limit. He states that up to 300million users are often using this method to get their point across. Dorsey also reminds users that the 140 character limit was initially introduced in order for a tweet to fit into an SMS message (limited to 160 characters per SMS).

This could be a sign that Twitter has developed beyond the imposed character limit and users simply have more to say. Users were quick to note that the use of an image in place of text means words cannot be tracked due to the photo format – something which the increased limit would solve. Also, in a world of smartphones with unlimited characters and messages, there is no longer the notion that every letter, number and punctuation mark needs to earn its place, as it did 10 years ago when Twitter was launched.

Offering Twitter users the option to create longer tweets could well be a step forward for storytelling on social media. Twitter appears to have picked up on what at least some users want and should this update occur, give them the power of words to express themselves further.

Responses to the rumours have been somewhat mixed. While some believe it will enhance the platform and allow for more coherent conversations, others believe that Twitter will lose its niche as a platform for what is essentially micro-blogging. 

Twitter was naturally quick to react to the news in the form of a ‘Twitter Storm’ and many believe that allowing a 10,000 character limit will lead to user ‘rants’ (a more common occurrence on Facebook). The debate of quality versus quantity also made its way into the conversation, implying that those posting quality contributions on the platform perhaps don’t need an increased limit. It was deemed that a 10,000 character limit would change the type of content posted and this could then change the dynamic of the platform in terms of the conversations taking place.

It has been suggested that should this update occur, the scrolling nature of Twitter would be unaffected as when longer tweets are published there will be the option to expand them, rather than displaying a full 10,000 character tweet. This is to ensure that the user will still see the same amount of content – given the predicted attention span of social users in 2016 is six seconds, this is even more important.

Should Twitter go ‘Beyond 140’, it is likely that, as with every update, it won’t please everyone. But for brands, it could be a blessing. The simplicity of sending an extended customer service message, whilst keeping every day tweets to the point, means an upper limit would be an advantage.