You’ve probably noticed that some of your favorite Twitter users have been sending out longer tweets. Twitter tested out the increased 280 character limit for a select number of users back in September while the rest of us were left to make due with a measly 140 characters for two whole months. But, alas, the common folks’ time has come. Effective immediately, almost everyone has access to Twitter’s 280 character limit — but it might take a second to tell that you actually have it.
If you’re tweeting from your phone, you’ll notice that instead of a decreasing number in the corner of your tweet, there’s a circle near the button you press to send your tweet. The circle fills with Twitter’s signature blue color little by little until you reach the 280 character limit. When you hit 260 characters, the circle turns orange to warn you to finish your thought. Think of it as the wrap it up music at the Oscar’s. When you have no characters left, the circle turns red. #StopTweetin. (If you don't see this yet, try closing the app and then re-opening it.)
Twitter’s experimental increased character limit was meant to test whether more characters would lead to more engagement on the app, and turns out, it did. Folks who had access to 280 characters per tweet received more engagement than they did previously and reported feeling more satisfied with their tweets, according to Twitter.
"In addition to more Tweeting, people who had more room to Tweet received more engagement (Likes, Retweets, @mentions), got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter," Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen said in a blog.
“People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content and Twitter over all,” Twitter said in a statement.
The increased engagement and satisfaction may be a short-lived byproduct of the novelty of the new character limit. During the 280 character trial period, only 5 percent of tweets were longer than 140 characters, and only 2 percent were over 190. Only 2 percent of tweets met the character limit. Most tweets stayed under 100 characters. Maybe old habits die hard.
“We — and many of you — were concerned that timelines may fill up with 280 character Tweets, and people with the new limit would always use up the whole space", said Rosen in a blog post. "But that didn't happen."
As with everything on Twitter, the 280 character limits has proponents and opponents. Some are excited for their chance to tweet their stream of consciousness times two; while, others are dreading the proliferation of long, hot takes.
I predict that the general Twitter population’s use of the 280 character limit will be similar to the test group’s — an initial spike in long tweets that quickly taper off to 140 characters or less. Folks have short attention spans, and threads don't need to be longer than they already are.
The only people who the 280 character limit is not being extended to are those who tweet in Japanese, Korean, or Chinese, the company said. Twitter says that those languages lend themselves to expressing thoughts in fewer characters, so the increased character limit seemed unnecessary.
Twitter’s increased character limit is a move closer toward social sites that do not have space limits, like Facebook and Tumblr. It’s possible that this change will encourage more people to join the app. Will your auntie quote tweet you, telling you to tell your mom she said “Hi”? Will your grandma comment under your #NewProfilePicture to tell you that you’re beautiful and look just like cousin so and so when they were young? Only time will tell.