Will 4000 character tweets be the end of Twitter as a micro-blogging platform?
12 December 2022
In Twitter’s early days, the original one-hundred-and-forty character limit per tweet was a test of a micro-blogger’s ability to be succinct yet informative. It may have been harsh, but the more you thought about the seemingly restrictive limit, the easier it became to craft compelling tweets. One-hundred-and-forty characters forced users to be to the point, and not waste a single character in doing so.
But the increase, across most languages, to two-hundred-and-eighty characters, in November 2017, seemed like the striking of a happy balance. Twitter still felt like a micro-blogging platform, while giving members a little more latitude in their tweets.
Then last winter it was reported Twitter was trialling a notes function. Members would have been able to append a text file — containing two-thousand-five-hundred words — to a tweet. That seemed liked a sensible idea, as I wrote in June. People without a website or blog, would be able to make Twitter the focus of their web presence, without having to get involved in the effort of maintaining a website. And anyone who didn’t want to read what was effectively a two-thousand-five-hundred word tweet, could simply scroll through to the next item in their feed.
News today of a proposed four-thousand character limit doesn’t mean people still can’t skip past any tweet they don’t want to read. But it is a game changer. Yet the real question is: why is this happening in the first place? To increase user engagement? Of that, I’m not sure. For me Twitter has always been a place where I can scan the main feed looking for stories of interest. And if something takes my interest, I can click through for more on the story, by way of the embedded link in the tweet.
And what of interactions with other users? A two-hundred-and-eighty character tweet limit surely helped keep conversations ticking over. How will discussion fare now people can make sprawling contributions to the discourse? Will anyone hang around to read whatever is tweeted?
One thing is certain, if the four-thousand character tweet limit is adopted, Twitter will cease being a micro-blogging platform — which is what made it so popular in the first place — and become something else altogether.