​Twitter Courts Controversy with 10,000-Character Tweet Plans

11 January 2016

Twitter Courts Controversy with 10,000-Character Tweet Plans

If you ask the person in the street what they know about Twitter, one of the features they are likely to mention is the 140-character limit to each update. But, according to reports by re/code, Twitter is considering upping that to a whopping 10,000-character limit in the next few months.

This number has not been pulled out of the air; it’s the new length that Direct Messages sent through the service are allowed to meet. The potential new product is internally referred to as Beyond 140 and it is thought that tweets will still be displayed at the 140-character length, but longer updates will have a call to action users can click to expand the rest of the content available.

This suggests that, essentially, users’ timelines will look the same but work very differently.

The proposed change could be a move on Twitter’s part to follow LinkedIn and Facebook’s progression into platforms that host longer-form content such as articles and blog posts. With Facebook’s Instant Articles and LinkedIn Pulse, as well as highly popular services like Medium, the desire to host – instead of externally link to - more in-depth content could be playing a part in Twitter’s motivation.

Initial user response to the idea has been mixed, with many sceptical of how a 10,000-character limit would work.

Ed Bott shared his concerns with a visual of what 10,000 characters looks like, while accounts such as Comedy Central joked about the current 140 limit cutting off important thoughts.

The Guardian reports that this revelation “instantly sent the troubled tech company’s share price into a tail spin”, with shares “plummeting” over 2%. However, whether this dampens Twitter’s apparent enthusiasm for the 10,000-character idea remains to be seen. The platform is chasing user and advertising growth and, if this move will help brands to engage with Twitter on a larger level, a temporary share-price drop could be a worthwhile sacrifice for the site.

A change from 140 to 10,000 characters is radical, not just for users and how they interact with the service but also to Twitter’s very identity. Clicking to expand long tweets could slow people down as they read their timelines, reducing the overall number of tweets they read and engage with. And yet it could equally be the kind of sweeping change that the platform that always seems to be trying to catch up to Facebook needs to establish itself as a new, relevant and updated service that users want to spend time on.