Twitter's 10,000-character posts aren't what you think

If there’s one thing people know about Twitter it’s that posts there can only be 140 characters long. But what if Twitter lifted that limit and tweets could be longer? Like, a lot longer.
Buzzfeed had reported that a new Twitter algorithm was to be launched, one that would reorder posts based on popularity, not in reverse chronological order. ( AP file photo)

This week, the tech blog ReCode published an article entitled Twitter Considering 10,000-Character Limit for Tweets. And Twitter just exploded over it. 

"Mostly, it seemed to be a lot of shock and horror," said Mathew Ingram, a writer in Toronto for Fortune magazine. He was watching and retweeting the reaction as it unfolded on Tuesday. 

"There were a lot of people saying, 'Oh, this is terrible, I'm going to leave Twitter' and, 'This is going to be the end of Twitter,' and 'Why are they doing this?' '10,000 characters is way too much.'" 

Yes, the idea of scrolling through a Twitter rant the size of a magazine feature just to get to the next tweet is pretty ridiculous. 

Or it would be, if that's what Twitter officials were planning.

Still under 140 characters

Under the rather misleading ReCode headline, the story actually said that tweets would appear pretty much the same way they do now. 

"It sounds like what Twitter is thinking about is a sort of "click here to read more" link of some kind, so a tweet would still look the same but you would be able to click on it and see an expanded version of up to 10,000 characters," said Ingram. 

"Whether that expands inside of your stream or it leads to a separate page with more text or whether it leads to a separate site with more text remains to be seen," he said. 

In fact, Twitter users already do this all the time. News organizations tweet headlines with a link to the story on their websites. People tweet links to posts on their own blogs and they use services like TwitLonger or Medium when what they write goes beyond 140 characters. 

Some people even post screenshots of their writings to Twitter, converting their text into a picture. That's what Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey did when he responded to this article.

He wrote about his love for the "beautiful constraint" of 140 characters. 

"It inspires creativity and brevity," he wrote. "We will never lose that feeling." 

Many people are passionate about this limit on Twitter posts and with that passion comes a resistance to change. 

"There is a core of users who would just like Twitter to stay the way it is. And with any service there is a core of users who hate change of any kind," said Ingram. 

Users demand other changes from Twitter

"I think other users would rather Twitter focused on other things that need to be fixed. For example there's a large group of users who feel that Twitter doesn't do enough to stop harassment and offensive behaviour, stalking behavior, and bullying behaviour on the network," he said. 

Another common request from Twitter users this week was the ability to edit tweets after they've been posted. 

The reason that Twitter is considering this change rather than some of these other ones, Ingram said, comes down to turning a profit, something the company has never done, despite its popularity. 

"I think that the bigger picture is that platforms like Facebook and Snapchat and Apple and Google are trying to keep more and more content inside their platforms instead of sending users away," Ingram said. "Because that way you can control the experience, you can control the advertising, and you can boost your revenue, theoretically," he said. 

Consistent with previous changes

Twitter has made this sort of change before, aimed at keeping people.

It used to be that posting a photo or video on Twitter required an outside service. Now all that can be done within the app with the media displayed within the tweet. 

"You can see that happening all along from the very beginning: Twitter effectively absorbing either clients or features and adding more and more value to the service and the stream itself, instead of sending you away," said Ingram. 

"The last thing left to absorb is whatever is behind the link, keep people from clicking to go somewhere else. If they click, just keep them inside your walled garden," he said. 

So, Twitter users, you can relax. You won't see any enormous tweets in your timeline.

Twitter is just hoping that, when what you write or read won't fit in 140 characters, it can keep you inside its little corner of the internet. 


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