From the time it was first conceived, Twitter has limited messages to 140 characters. That included anything you type, from other user’s handles to the # of a hashtag. But all that is about to change soon.
Twitter has officially announced that it will rethink what it counts in those 140 characters. “In the coming months we’ll make changes to simplify Tweets including what counts toward your 140 characters, so for instance, @names in replies and media attachments (like photos, GIFs, videos, and polls) will no longer ‘use up’ valuable characters,” the company said.
The updates will roll out to all users over the next few months, but if you know what they’re all about, you won’t want to wait!
Let’s Start With the Good News
If you’ve been trying to go beyond 140 characters, the first few changes will bring a smile to your face. Finally, usernames, quotes, and media attachments don’t count in the character limit!
— Twitter (@twitter) May 24, 2016
Change 1: Right now, when you attach a video to your tweet (or any other multimedia like images, GIFs, or Twitter polls), it generates a link that counts towards the limit. In the new rules, these attachments won’t take up any of your precious 140 characters.
Change 2: Where you’ll feel the effect most is with replies. For example, take this conversation between me and my colleagues, Harry, Matthew, and Justin. I had to write, edit, and re-edit what I wanted to say to fit in everyone’s “@” handles, so that they are notified I’m talking to them.
— Mihir Patkar (@mihirpatkar) October 16, 2015
But in the new system, because I’m replying to Harry who started the conversation, those @names won’t be counted in the 140-character limit.
Change 3: A short while ago, Twitter introduced Quote Tweets. In a nutshell, this lets you retweet someone’s update and add your own commentary to it. But again, the quoted tweet is turned into a link, much like the attachments above, which counts in your limit. And yes, you guessed it, the new rules will stop counting that.
The Feature You Should Be Excited About
In the near future, you will be able to retweet your own tweets—something which you can’t do at the moment. So while you can track your most-retweeted tweet, you can’t share it again without typing it all over.
It’s a welcome change, since your current options seem a little bit like you’re spamming your timeline. For example, sometimes you have an important tweet that you want to keep reminding others about, possibly to keep all the information and replies localized in one tweet. In such a scenario, it’ll be better to retweet yourself than have multiple tweets.
URGENT! Hours-old kitten abandoned by mom in need of lactating cat. Any leads appreciated. Please RT #Mumbai
— Mihir Patkar (@mihirpatkar) May 22, 2014
And then there’s the trick of replying to yourself and removing your handle, so that the tweets appear are a series. Instead, you could just quote yourself to make your point.
Tomorrow, if Twitter decided to pay a buck for every tweet, the first response wouldn't be "Thanks/Yay", it'd be "WHAT ABOUT HARASSMENT?"
— Mihir Patkar (@mihirpatkar) May 24, 2016
No matter how you look at it, this one move will change Twitter for the better. You’ll be able to write tweets that get more retweets, and figure out how to keep information on Twitter centralized instead of in a chain of scattered messages.
The One Bad Update
While most of the announced changes make sense, there’s one that doesn’t. Twitter is getting rid of the “.@” trick. Here’s what they have to say about it:
New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you’ll no longer have to use the “.@” convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly.
For those who don’t know, the “.@” is one of the basic tricks of using Twitter. Right now, when you start a tweet with a username, it shows only on that user’s timeline. But when you add a dot before the “@”, it shows on all your followers’ timelines. Here’s a quick example:
@makeuseof is a site I write for, but only people who follow both me and them on Twitter will see this tweet in their timeline.
— Justin Pot (@jhpot) December 3, 2015
.@makeuseof is a site I write for, and because I put a period in front of their username my followers will see this tweet.
— Justin Pot (@jhpot) December 3, 2015
In my opinion, removing the “.@” trick is a big mistake. Under the new guidelines, if Harry wants to start a conversation with Matt, I have to see that. You’d be surprised how many people on your Following list follow each other. Soon, this could mean your timeline being populated with a whole bunch of irrelevant tweets you would otherwise have missed.
Yes, it saves characters for you (remember, usernames won’t count), but if that comes at the cost of making the timeline more confusing and irrelevant, it’s not worth it. Instead, just educating users about Twitter pro tips would be a better approach.
Are You Excited About the New Twitter?
So no, none of these new changes let you write tweets longer than 140 characters, but that’s a good thing. There are enough tools to write longer posts, even Twitter-based ones Medium. Instead, with the new changes, Twitter is recognizing it is at its best when it retains brevity. The difference now is that you can still be brief without non-essential words and items limiting what you want to say.
What do you think about the upcoming Twitter changes? Do you agree that getting rid of the “.@” is a bad move?
Image Credit: Blue bird by Julien Tromeur via Shutterstock