Twitter experiments with doubling its character limit

Nicole Lee

Over the past couple of years, Twitter has slowly chipped away at its 140-character constraint. It removed @replies from the limit earlier this year, and exempted photos, videos and quotes from it last year. Now, it's ready to push those character restrictions once again. The company announced today that it's going to experiment with expanding its 140-character limit to a whopping 280, at least to users whose language is anything other than Japanese, Chinese or Korean. The reason for doing so, according to Twitter, is that you can say much more in certain languages than others.

(Twitter)

In a blog post, Product Manager Aliza Rosen said that those who use certain East Asian languages on Twitter don't suffer the same restraints as English-speaking users. "We see that a small percent of tweets sent in Japanese have 140 characters (only 0.4 percent). But in English, a much higher percentage of tweets have 140 characters (9 percent). Most Japanese tweets are 15 characters while most English tweets are 34." This 140-character limit, she says, is a cause of frustration for English users, but not Japanese users, because of the difference in language.

So in the interest of making it easier for everyone to use Twitter, the company is testing out the aforementioned 280-character limit to a small group of people. Again, this will only impact users whose language is not Japanese, Chinese or Korean. Rosen says in the blog post that it hopes to collect data and gather feedback about the test before it finally rolls out the 280-character limit on a wider scale.

"We understand since many of you have been tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters -- we felt it, too," says Rosen in the blog post. "But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint."

280 characters is certainly a big leap from 140 -- it's twice the number, after all -- but it's much less than the 10,000 character limit that was rumored last year. By comparison, 280 doesn't seem that bad. It appears that, at least for now, the company is sticking to the Twitter-means-brevity script that has been with it from the very beginning. Those hoping for an edit button, however, will remain disappointed.