For the past 10 years, Twitter’s most iconic feature has been the 140 character limit. However, as of Sept. 26, a small group of users is now capable of posting tweets double that length. Twitter is allowing certain accounts to use 280 characters on a trial basis, and it might surprise you why.
According to Twitter, there’s more to the 140 character limit than meets the eye.
Aliza Rosen, Product Manager at Twitter, brings about an interesting point. The amount of information you can convey in 140 characters drastically differs depending on which language you speak. According to Rosen’s post on the company blog, the average Tweet written in English contains 34 characters. In contrast, the average tweet written in Japanese contains only 15. You might assume that English speakers have more to say, but the study deduced that the average Japanese tweet conveys the same amount of information in half the space. Further studies showed that other languages that do not use the English alphabet produced the same results.
Twitter explains that, “cramming languages,” such as English, Spanish, and French will have access to the longer limit. By this same thought process, accounts using languages similar to Japanese, such as Chinese and Korean, will not see the 280 character feature.
Twitter has seen a steady decline in usage over the past few years, dropping from nearly 400 million users in 2014 to barely 300 million in 2016. Altering the strict 140 character limit has the potential to attract a new audience to the platform. BBC theorizes that giving users more freedom will increase their engagement and interest. The same article also speculates that giving marketers twice as much room to advertise could mean the potential for more revenue for Twitter.
Whether you have 140 characters or 280, Twitter was conceived around the notion of brevity and that is not something this change is likely to disrupt. The longer character limit is still only available on a trial basis and may not result in a permanent change.