Since Twitter was founded in 2006, it has always held onto its most iconic feature — the 140-character limit of its tweets. The restriction has defined the platform both as a place for creative "microblogging," and the quick consumption and networking of information. It's really the feature that makes Twitter what it has been before and is today, but it looks like that's about to change. The company has apparently been experimenting with a much larger 10,000-character limit for its tweets since the fall.
There's no official release date for this update, and the actual number might change before it goes live, but suffice it to say that Twitter's days of living and dying by 140 characters are nearly over. So what does this mean for people who live on Twitter? Well, to keep it simple, it just means they'll be able to flesh out their thoughts a little more via text. Granted, one of the nice aspects of a short character limit like 140 has been that no word goes wasted, but this might at least get rid of long rants that span many consecutive tweets.
What's more is that the design of Twitter's timeline is unlikely to change much even with the option for added text. Twitter has thrived in the past because it's easy to consume and interact with a lot of different tweets in one sitting. Drastically changing the real estate of the timeline to accommodate longer tweets would drop engagement. That's why on the surface they'll probably just show 140 characters, with an added identifier prompting a user to expand the tweet if they want to see more.
Expressing longer thoughts with more text isn't a new idea on Twitter. As Matthew Yglesias of Vox pointed out above, users have been tweeting screenshots of longer text for a while now. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even did the same thing to explain his thought process behind lifting the 140-character limit.
His thinking is that if people are already tweeting out extra text, why not make the trend official so others can search that text and interact with it the same way as a much shorter text tweet? Of course, plenty say that longer tweets aren't going to solve the company's larger problems with stagnation in user growth and rising mountains of clutter. They're not necessarily wrong. The company may have gotten off to a rocketing start on the success of its initial microblogging concept and hashtags, but it has lagged in recent years to take the next step.
However, the decision to bring back Dorsey as CEO coupled with this potential change to the foundation of Twitter's key product offering represents a willingness to take risks that just hasn't been present at the company recently. It's not going to lead to a massive turnaround all on its own, but the 10,000-character limit could be a signal of even bigger changes to come. For better or for worse, they at least show the company is willing to ease what has been a somewhat stubborn demeanor up to this point.
Cover image: Wikimedia