Sometimes it’s a little hard to believe that Twitter has only existed for a little over a decade. I clearly remember when it first suddenly came onto the scene, but for some reason, it now feels like it’s always been there. Twitter popularized an interesting new kind of communication: the 140-character tweet. I didn’t understand the appeal at first. Why would you want to write tiny little messages? But Twitter gained popularity very quickly, and even I made an account and have since tweeted on a fairly regular basis. Twitter has made users learn how to write precise, short messages that are constrained by the character limit. Of course, this also encouraged more textspeak from users, making tweets typically much less professional-looking than other social media posts might. Tweets often replace ‘you’ with ‘u,’ ‘for’ with ‘4,’ etc. Some people even tried to get around the character limit by using services like TwitLonger; these services show the beginnings of tweets and then link to the full post.
If Twitter’s new experiment works, though, tweets may soon become two times as long as they previously were. Twitter is currently testing 280-character tweets with a “small group” of testers. Their announcement notes that some languages can get across more information than others in a smaller number of characters, meaning that in some languages, there’s plenty of room within the 140-character limit, but others, as mentioned above, have to find ways around the limit. This is an interesting thing to note, and Twitter is now trying to make things a little fairer for everyone.
It will be interesting to see how Twitter might change if they do decide to roll this update out to everyone. Twitter has become well-known for its 140 characters, so 280 characters might feel difficult to get used to. It’s possible that the experience of scrolling through your Twitter feed could seem very different when tweets take up more space and can’t be scrolled through quite as quickly. But if 280-character tweets do become accessible to everyone, I’m guessing plenty of people will be thrilled to be able to fully spell out the word ‘before’ in their posts.