Twitter to relax 140-character limit for tweets

Twitter will ease its 140-character limit for tweets, allowing users to add links, attachments and other features within the short messages.
Twitter will ease its 140-character limit for tweets, allowing users to add links, attachments and other features within the short messages. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • Twitter will ease its 140-character limit for tweets, allowing users to add links, attachments and some other features within the short messages, it said.

The move comes as the social media giant's efforts to increase its user base and engagement have been sputtering, raising questions about its growth trend.

"Over the past decade, the tweet has evolved from a simple 140-character text message to a rich canvas for creative expression featuring photos, videos, hashtags, Vines and more," said Twitter product manager Todd Sherman on Tuesday.

"So you can already do a lot in a tweet, but we want you to be able to do even more. In the coming months, we'll make changes to simplify tweets, including what counts towards your 140 characters."

Mr Sherman said names in replies, and media attachments such as photos, videos and polls, will no longer be counted towards the character limit.

He added that updates would be implemented "over the coming months" and that developer partners would be given the tools to enable the change on sites that use Twitter.

Other tweaks were being made to how Twitter works, the statement said. One new feature will enable users to retweet or "quote" their own messages "when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed". Twitter will also broadcast the "reply" tweet to all followers of a given user. This will eliminate the need for a technique in which users had to add a character to a reply to allow it to be viewed broadly.

Blogger Matt McGee from Search Engine Land said the change "means... less frustration for everyone who has been forced to edit their words in order to fit them inside Twitter's constraints".

He added that because the new rules apply to "promoted" tweets or advertisements, the new format gives marketers "more room to tell their story or pitch their products and services with both text and media".

Mr Greg Sterling of the Local Search Association, a marketing trade group, played down the change as "incremental" for Twitter's efforts. He said the company is struggling because it has not kept pace with other big networks such as Facebook and Instagram.

"Facebook, Instagram and others have sucked some of the engagement out of the room for people to share pictures and other content, and they are pre-empting Twitter."

Last month, Twitter released a quarterly update that showed little change in its user base. In a key metric in the fast-evolving social media world, Twitter's trend was flat.

The number of monthly active users was 310 million, up 3 per cent from a year ago and only slightly higher than the 305 million in the previous quarter.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Twitter to relax 140-character limit for tweets'. Print Edition | Subscribe