Ever since Twitter was launched in 2006, the social media website’s unique selling point has been its brevity. Twitter is now popular with casual users, celebrities, and journalists alike thanks to its ability to allow them to communicate in 140 characters or less.
Why 140 characters? Well, 160 characters was the maximum number that could be used in a text message in dark days gone by. So Twitter reserved 20 characters for each username and 140 for Tweets that could easily be sent and received on mobile devices. Whilst Twitter’s design has been modified sightly over the years, the website’s maximum Tweet length has never changed. But it was announced this Tuesday that a 280-character limit for Tweets is being tested – sending users of the microblogging site into meltdown. “Although we feel confident about our data and the positive impact this change will have, we want to try it out with a small group of people before we make a decision to launch to everyone,” Twitter Product Manager Aliza Rosen and Senior Software Engineer Ikuhiro Ihara wrote. So why is this change being introduced? Well, it’s all down to Twitter’s popularity. In 2006, the website was predominately used by English speaking people, but now over 60 different languages are used on the website. More characters would help people who speak different languages Tweet. Bizarrely, one of the languages with users who feel restrained by the current character limit is English. Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen said, “Sometimes, I have to remove a word that conveys an important meaning or emotion, or I don’t send my Tweet at all.” Whereas Japanese speaking user, Ihara, doesn’t have this problem and said, “In languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.” In addition to this, Twitter’s marketing team have discovered that an increased number of characters could increase the site’s popularity. “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting,” it was revealed. However, Twitter users were more than a little upset by this proposed change… One of the main arguments against the change was that Twitter’s current character limit forces users into expressing themselves in the most concise and accurate way possible – something which not only makes Tweets easier to read but more successful. Another issue with having a 280-charcter limit is that it would give the Trolls on the website a greater amount of space to harass other users. However, given that trolls exist on Twitter in its current form, this point holds less weight than the former one. Twitter frequently hits headlines because of President Trump, and, naturally, people have begun to speculate about how the former reality star would react to the change. His Tweets – which some deem to be offensive – have caused arguments around the world. President Trump is quite possibly the only world leader to announce a major policy change through the website – Tweeting that transgender people were no longer allowed to serve in the US military. “Trying to cram your thoughts into a Tweet – we’ve all been there, and it’s a pain,” Rosen wrote. “We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.” What do you think of Twitter’s proposed character change limit? Would it encourage or discourage you from using the website? Could you be in the group of specially selected people allowed to test the 280 character limit? This video explains how Twitter will select their test group…
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