With 280 characters Twitter is not going to break any barriers, neither for itself, nor its users

Twitter's plans to move to 280 characters may turn out to be a precision move, one that could help it show some organic growth.

The good things in life may not be the best for you. You could say the same about movies. The good ones, don’t usually perform at the box office either. Twitter it is still relevant, very unlike Facebook that's loaded to the brim with family, friends, brands and all those annoying posts that come with it as a part of the package deal.

With 280 characters Twitter is not going to break any barriers, neither for itself, nor its users


But Twitter too has its fair share of problems. It has not been doing well over the past couple of years. Its shares have been tumbling since 2016 and 2017 shows no signs of any improvement either.

So what’s with a little bit of experimenting? After trying Live video with its Live API, we now have another attempt at reviving some interest in the social network with something unheard of for Twitter, a new character limit.

What's in a character?

Twitter earlier today announced and made official that it is testing out a longer character limit with small groups of users right now. Instead of the usual 140-character limit, these lucky users will have access to some more space, with an additional 140 characters, raising the limit to a healthy 280 characters. For now, the new increased character limit will be available in all languages except Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

The social network is currently in the process of testing the new character limit, but is positive about how it will affect users.

In a detailed post by Twitter’s Product Manager, Aliza Rosen and Senior Software Engineer, Ikuhiro Ihara, it becomes evidently clear (from the title itself) that the network wants to help its users express themselves better. “Trying to cram your thoughts into a Tweet – we’ve all been there, and it’s a pain.” says Rosen, explaining why it is annoying to edit tweets over and over again so that “it fits”.

Removing a word reduces the emotion, meaning that some users may simply not tweet something out at all. Ikuhiro however, has no problems because languages like “Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.”

Is this going to help Twitter?

According to research conducted by Twitter, users tweet out more when they have more space (characters) to play around with. The research shows that the current character limit is a major source of frustration for people who tweet in English, but this is not the same for users who tweet in Japanese.

The reason for the same is because every character in Japanese stands for an entire word, whereas languages that use Roman characters need many characters to make a single word. Which means that those who tweet in languages that do not use Roman characters end up tweeting more often, thus proving their case for a higher character limit.

Shiv Putcha, associate director, consumer mobility at IDC is positive about the idea. “They have been debating this for some time. The 140-character limit gave them a very unique audience. It created a particular kind of behaviour. Users had to be creative and innovative to stay within that character limit. But at the same time, this was limiting as well."

"Twitter hit the ceiling a couple of years ago as to what they could do. The choice left to them now is, that they could you just open it up with no limit or do you still try to keep that uniqueness” he added.

Putcha believes that Twitter is making a precise move in order to showcase a minor bump in growth. “I think this an attempt to strike a balance, giving a bit of flexibility to users, between these two conflicting objectives. If you open it up fully, you are no different from Facebook or any other such social network.”

He said that as of today, there is nothing in between. “On Facebook there are a lot of users who are spending less time, seeing the same trends, with cluttered news feeds and no sense of time. The only other alternative was Twitter, which was too short. So extending the character limit creates a middle ground in a way.”

The second angle

Senior analyst at Counterpoint, Hanish Bhatia said that Twitter benefits from the move in more ways than one. “The new character limit will enable Twitter to analyze textual content more efficiently and increase reader’s attention span to each tweet – this will be a significant boost for advertisers.”

And the keyword here is ‘English’. Bhatia is of the opinion that Twitter is trying to minimize the gap of active users with Facebook, by specifically targeting English language users. But just like most Twitter reactions appearing online, not everyone is happy.

That thing about longer tweets

Longer tweets, means that there’s definitely going to be a lot of scrolling, despite smartphone displays getting taller this year. Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst, founder & CEO of Greyhound Knowledge Group, opines that the move is going to pinch Twitter. He said that it was a wrongly poised move and this is not what consumers are looking at.

“Consumers are looking at an edit button, they are not looking at 280 characters. And if you ask me, the beauty of Twitter lies in 140 characters. The world really does not need another Facebook.”

He added that the annoyance factor on Twitter is already very high with a lot of spammers and bots. “Now imagine those same bots with longer tweets. It seems to be a misled strategy that will take away the pure Twitter user experience”.

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