Big news out of the Twitter-verse today. For the first time in the company’s 11 year history, a small percentage of users will be able to tweet up to 280 characters, exactly double the current limit of 140, Twitter announced in a blog post today.
The explanation given is that, while people tweeting in Japanese, Chinese and Korean rarely brush up against the character limit, due to the fact that you can convey about double the amount of information in those languages than you can in many other languages, people tweeting in those other languages, like Spanish, French, English and Portuguese, take up the entire character limit far more often. Thus, the 280 character limit, which will be available in all languages except for Japanese, Korean and Chinese, is in essence an attempt to even the playing field.
Right now, Twitter’s trying the new character limit out on a select group of members before launching it wide. What this will mean, should it go completely public, remains to be seen. I personally can’t envision it making that much of a difference. After all, people bypass the 140 character limit with threads all the time. In that regard, at least, the new character limit might make for a smoother user experience.
On the other hand, as the blog post itself says, “Twitter is about brevity.” Brevity is both its greatest strength and weakness as a democratizing tool for communication. One wonders what the experience might look like to read through double the text—whether it might actually impede people from using it for news (or, more importantly, deter them from finding out more from links to lengthier news stories within the tweets themselves, which often serve as substitutes for lengthier tweets).
Of course, it’s hard not to discuss a modification to Twitter without discussing its most divisive user, President Donald Trump. Can you imagine his reaction to this news? Can you imagine what he might do with 280 characters? Might double the characters mean double the madness, double the vitriol, double the time spent interpreting whatever the hell he says?
Or could it be the case that 280 characters are too much for him to handle, and that he’ll go on one of his patented rampages against Twitter’s impending decision?
Guess we’ll have to wait and see.