Twitter to Ease Character Limit, Making Room for GIFs, Videos and More
- Ver Original
- Maio 24º, 2016
Today, this article’s 140-character first paragraph forms the entirety of a Twitter post. But this will not be the case for too much longer.
On Tuesday, Twitter said it planned to introduce a series of changes in the coming months to make it easier for people to communicate with one another on the social media service. In particular, the modifications will loosen the 140-character limit of a Twitter post, a restriction that has at times stumped and infuriated people, but that has come to define the tweet as an economical and idiosyncratic form of communication.
Under the rule-bending, tagging users by their handles at the beginning of replies and adding photos, GIFs and videos will no longer count against the 140-character limit in tweets, Twitter said. This will enable users to post longer messages with more interactive content without running afoul of the character restriction.
“This is something that has been requested from people using Twitter for quite some time,” Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, said in an interview. When people try to cram their thoughts into a 140-character tweet, “then you’re just thinking a lot about Twitter instead of what you’re saying. We shouldn’t make you think about Twitter,” Mr. Dorsey said.
The adjustments amount to the biggest makeover to the form of a tweet in years. Twitter began last decade as a type of short messaging — the number of characters in a post curbed to just 140 in order to fit an SMS message. Over the years, Twitter has introduced some small refinements to how its product looks and feels, like adding a direct-messages button on the mobile home screen and changing the Twitter “favorite” button to a heart-shaped “like” button.
But Twitter, which is based in San Francisco, has been skittish about making major changes to the service, seemingly paralyzed at the thought of scaring off any members of its loyal fan base. In January, when several news outlets reported that Twitter was considering extending the character limit of tweets in a project known as “beyond 140,” users revolted en masse. In March, Mr. Dorsey took to Twitter and the airwaves to assuage fears that the company would greatly alter the way a tweet works.
Now with the new changes, Mr. Dorsey can have it both ways: keep the 140-character limit while also allowing tweets to be longer.
The compromise is another attempt by Mr. Dorsey to simplify the complex, esoteric rules that have evolved around Twitter and that have made the service somewhat impenetrable to new users. He has made it clear that nothing is off the table as he tries to turn the company around.
Since Twitter had its initial public offering in 2013, it has faced criticism for its inability to attract new users and, perhaps more important, to keep them returning regularly. Last month, Twitter said it had an average of 310 million monthly users in the first three months of 2016, up from 305 million users in the last three months of 2015.
“Twitter’s unique syntax and 140-character limit have held the service back,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at the industry research firm eMarketer. “Twitter has been saying for years now that it wants to make the service more user-friendly, and I think users will really appreciate having the ability to say what they want to say in the way they want to say it.”
With the changes, Twitter will also end another longstanding, frequently confusing convention: Tweets that began with someone else’s user name — say, a tweet from @MikeIsaac (this reporter) to @fmanjoo (the New York Times’s technology columnist) — would be seen only by people who followed both users.
To get around this limitation, users would often put a period before the user name at the beginning of the tweet, a workaround that is now commonplace. But many casual users of the service were not aware of the constraint, or that their tweets were not viewable by their followers because of it, Mr. Dorsey said. Now people will no longer have to add a period to the beginning of a tweet to display the message to all of their followers.
Twitter users will also be able to quote and “retweet” — or rebroadcast — their own older tweets, which was not possible before. The idea, according to Twitter, is to resurface old ideas that may have gone unnoticed.
“Changing the nature of tweets is risky for Twitter, as these qualities have attracted and retained the most loyal users,” said Brian Blau, a technology analyst for Gartner. “But for them to become mass market and move to the next level, they need to make fundamental changes.”
@nytimes readers, whether these changes are significant enough is unclear. But under the new rules, this last paragraph of 148 characters just fits.
An earlier version of this article misstated the way Twitter user names will be counted under new rules. Tagged handles at the beginning of a reply will not count toward the 140-character limit; other mentions of a user name within a tweet will count. It is not the case that no Twitter handles will count toward the character limit.
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