Oh Twitter. What are we going to do about you?
An official blogpost from the company revealed that they are testing, with a ‘small group’, doubling the character limit on tweets, from 140 characters to a humongous 280.
They’ve justified the move by comparing the way that, for example, the Japanese language can convey more information in fewer characters and that languages like English are more affected by ‘cramming’, with 9% of all tweets in English hitting the 140 limit, compared to only 0.4% in Japanese.
And it’s attempted to allay fears that this will see everyone suddenly become more verbose by pointing out that most tweets in Japanese have 15 characters, and most in English have 34 - that is, most people will still keep it brief.
Most importantly to Twitter: “In all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people tweeting.”
However, given the platform’s continuing issues with abuse and reporting, this hardly seems like it should have been top of the company’s priority list. Moreover, one of the undoubted strengths of Twitter is the fact that people can’t witter on (unless launching into a thread) and forces them to get to the point, or to be beautifully pithy.
Both of these points were beautifully illustrated by this tweet:
This summed up most people’s thoughts:
twitter: what do you guys want— Goth Ms. Frizzle (@spookperson) September 26, 2017
everyone: get rid of the nazis and fix the report system
twitter: did I hear 280 characters
Well done twitter. I reported 20 literal nazis, you acted on two, only one of which is actually gone. But 280 chars, that’s important.— Fluff Meister (@fluffydotorg) September 27, 2017
The 280-character limit is a terrible idea. The whole beauty of Twitter is that it forces you to express your ideas concisely (1/47)— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) September 26, 2017
Others were already taking steps to adapt to their new-found freedom:
And some had more ideas to improve the service:
Others feared for this brave new future:
Ponderous threading fuckers gonna love this 280 thing. Can’t wait.— Rob Manuel (@robmanuel) September 27, 2017
While Twitter workers moved to assure people that they hadn’t forgotten about tackling abuse:
What Twitter should do is tackle abuse. Agreed. We have been.— Bruce Daisley (@brucedaisley) September 27, 2017
10x as many abusive accounts are actioned vs 2016.
Twice as many new accounts by abusers are being prevented at creation.— Bruce Daisley (@brucedaisley) September 27, 2017
Sin binned accounts produce 25% fewer reports of subsequent abuse.— Bruce Daisley (@brucedaisley) September 27, 2017
2/3 of sin binned accounts don't reoffend.
But the main problem? The real issue with this feature change?
Surely you’ve worked it out by now.
Twitter is increasing the character limit to 280 which means Trump will have twice the room to say four times as many idiotic statements.— Elton Castee (@EltonCastee) September 27, 2017
After Twitter as good as confirmed yesterday that Trump will never have his account suspended, no matter how many times he threatens nuclear war, then get yourself ready for double the nonsense - although, thankfully, he’s not been included in the initial test group.
Good luck America. Good luck everyone.
And in one stroke, Twitter doubles the complexity of our nation's foreign policy.— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) September 27, 2017