The rumours of Twitter increasing its character limit have been discussed around the internet for some time. Since the IPO in 2013, Twitter has been under increasing pressure from shareholders to drive its number of accounts and the amount of time that people spend on the site.
One of the changes that Twitter has introduced in the last week has been to the 140 character limit: media files, links and @ mentions will no longer count in your 140 character limit.
Why 140 characters in the first place? The number is now synonymous with Twitter but the original idea came from SMS text messages. They were limited to 160 characters, so Twitter set the limit to 140 to allow for people to mention a user name in their tweet. This feature is now what makes Twitter, well, Twitter.
What difference will this make? It is no secret that this move is designed to encourage two things: interaction and rich media. Removing the @ mention form the character limit is designed to allow people to say more when they are having a tweet chat with another user. And the use of rich media is critical to Twitter: most of their competition has been focused on rich media for some time and rich media based networks (Snapchat, Instagram) are still experiencing massive user growth, something Twitter isn’t achieving.
Is this the thin end of the wedge? Twitter has admitted that they have considered character limit changes for some time – 10,000 characters was apparently on the agenda, but such a change would fundamentally change Twitter. So, the character limit may change in the future, but it has to be very careful about removing the one feature which is unique to Twitter.
What was the point? Images, sound and video are key to social media success – and we have known this for some time. But rich media is not part of the fabric of Twitter in the same way that it is for some of the newer social networks such as Snapchat, Instagram, so Twitter needs to try and subtly force the point. Twitter’s commitment to rich media shouldn’t be underestimated though: earlier in 2016, they signed a $10m deal with the NFL to stream games.
So, there should be some interesting times ahead for the world’s third largest social network. What do you think the future holds for Twitter?