Is Elon Musk planning to increase Twitter's character limit to 4,000?

There are more changes coming to Twitter. Owner Elon Musk has hinted that the character count of tweets can be increased from 280 to 4000. The character limit on the social media app was last doubled in 2017, from 140 to 280

FP Explainers December 12, 2022 16:25:02 IST
Is Elon Musk planning to increase Twitter's character limit to 4,000?

Twitter owner Elon Musk has hinted about increasing the character limit of tweets. AP (Representational Image)

It seems Twitter will no longer be a ‘micro’-blogging site. Elon Musk has signalled that the character limit of tweets is set to rise from the current 280 characters.

The Twitter owner again raised many eyebrows after responding to a user’s question on the character count.

A user asked, “Elon is it true that Twitter is set to increase the characters from 280 to 4,000?”

To this, the billionaire replied: “Yes”.

Increasing the character limit of a tweet was always on cards after Musk took over the microblogging site, which was visible from his previous tweets.

On 28 November, Musk responded similarly when a user suggested that the character limit should be increased to 1000.

The Tesla CEO had said this was on the “todo list”.

A day earlier, when a user had said, “Twitter 2.0 should make the character limit 420 instead of that annoying 280”, Musk said, “Good idea”.

As Elon Musk puts the focus back on Twitter’s character limit, what has its history been so far? How have the people reacted to the proposed increase in the tweet limit? Let’s take a look.

Brief history of Twitter’s character count

2006: Twitter, then called Twttr, launches as a platform to send updates to friends through text messages. Based on the SMS limit of 160 characters, a tweet was capped at 140 character count and most of the updates were just some words or phrases. Giving example, TechCrunch‘s Michael Arrington said an average tweet was along the lines of “hungry” or “cleaning my apartment”.

2007: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey hints at ramping up the 140-character limit. He tweets, “Some things can’t be said in under 140 characters. Especially after some champagne.”

2009: Twitter introduces the retweet option. No change in the character limit.

2011: Twitter introduces its own link shortener which contracts any URL in a tweet to 19 characters.

Is Elon Musk planning to increase Twitters character limit to 4000

Twitter acquired TweetDeck in 2012. AP (Representational Image)

TweetDeck, a third-party service for managing tweets, rolls out which can avoid 140 character limit of Twitter when tweeting to other TweetDeck users, reported Fast Company magazine. A year later, Twitter takes over TweetDeck and kills, as per Wired. 

2013: Twitter replaces its previous link shortener. The new one reduces the link to 22 characters instead of 19, leaving 118 characters for users to rant.

2015: The social media platform increases the 140-character count in direct messages to 10,000 character limit. “While Twitter is largely a public experience, Direct Messages let you have private conversations about the memes, news, movements, and events that unfold on Twitter,” the company says in a blog post.

However, the ceiling for tweets remains 140 characters.

2016: Twitter starts excluding photos, GIFs, polls, and quoted tweets from the 140-character limit, giving people more space to tweet.

Defending the 140-character limit, Dorsey, the then-Twitter CEO, says on The Today Show that the count is “a good constraint for us”, reported TechCrunch. 

2017: In another change, a username is now no longer included in the character limit while replying to someone’s tweet.

In September of the same year, Twitter finally announces doubling of its character limit from 140 to 280.

As per a TechCrunch report in 2018, a year after the character limit was raised, not much change was seen in people’s tweeting behaviour.

Citing data released by Twitter, the report mentioned that only one per cent of tweets reached the 280-character limit, while only 12 per cent of tweets surpassed 140 characters.

Indicating users were accustomed to the brief format, Twitter data then showed that a mere 5 per cent of tweets were longer than 190 characters.

Users on 4,000 character limit

Reacting to Musk’s brief ‘yes’ on the character count increasing from 280 to 4,000 characters, users did not express much enthusiasm.

A user wrote, “It would be a big mistake. Twitter’s purpose is to provide fast news. If this happens, a lot of real information is lost”.

Another commented, “4,000? That’s an essay, not a tweet”.

“Personally I would suggest no more than 500 characters. One of the few things Twitter does is it forces people to learn how to efficiently get an idea across”, said a user.

A user also expressed concern about Twitter losing its identity of being a microblogging site.

“It would be a mistake, it would destroy the mystique of miniblogs, it would stop being Twitter!!” wrote another.

Meanwhile, Musk’s tease about the character limit comes amid Twitter relaunching its paid-for verification feature today (12 November).

Twitter Blue service will cost $8 per month, but those using the social media app on Apple devices will have to shell out a monthly fee of $11.

Twitter Blue’s feature will also include an edit button, another debated idea.

With inputs from agencies

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