The rumor that Twitter will scrap its 140-character limit for tweets just won’t die. In an interview with NBC this morning, CEO Jack Dorsey has gone on record to say that the limit is staying.
In September 2015, we first heard Twitter was experimenting with tweets longer than 140 characters. Then in January, the rumor came back, suggesting the company was hoping to launch a feature internally referred to as “Beyond 140” toward the end of this quarter.
Apparently the new limit would be 10,000 characters. In August 2015, Twitter increased the limit for Direct Messages from 140 characters to 10,000 characters, so the 10,000 figure isn’t completely arbitrary.
But Dorsey makes it quite clear the 140-character limit isn’t being removed:
NBC: “140 characters, the limit, is it staying, and if it’s going away, when?”
Dorsey: “It’s staying. It’s a good constraint for us. And it allows of the moment brevity.”
NBC: “You’re not changing anything?”
Dorsey: “We’re changing a lot. We’re always going to make Twitter better.”
NBC: “But still 140 characters?”
Dorsey: “140 characters.”
Of course, this still leaves wiggle room. Twitter can keep the limit but allow users to add more text to tweets in other ways. Many already take screenshots to do so, and Twitter could simply build in similar functionality. It’s not difficult to imagine an option that lets you see more text, à la Twitter Cards.
But many hardcore Twitter users will be unhappy if Twitter makes it easier to circumvent the limit, arguing it will change the very essence of Twitter itself. Both embracing and circumventing the 140-character cutoff has contributed to what makes Twitter unique, and maybe even addicting.
For reference, here is what Dorsey said regarding the limit at the start of the year:
— Jack (@jack) January 5, 2016
As with any massive change to what makes a service unique, Twitter needs to tread carefully. Already, many are unhappy with its algorithmic timeline that went live yesterday.