The debate on whether Twitter should keep or scrap its 140-character limit has raged for years. As it has become more and more clear that the company is struggling, the rumor that Twitter will move away from 140-character tweets keeps coming back.
In September, we first heard Twitter was experimenting with tweets longer than 140 characters. That was based on a Re/code report, which today added more fuel to the fire by saying the company is hoping to launch such a feature, reportedly internally referred to as “Beyond 140,” toward the end of this quarter.
The report goes on to say that Twitter is currently considering a 10,000-character limit. In August, Twitter increased the limit for Direct Messages from 140 characters to 10,000 characters, so the 10,000 figure isn’t completely arbitrary.
Here is how the current version of the feature apparently works, according to Re/code:
Twitter is currently testing a version of the product in which tweets appear the same way they do now, displaying just 140 characters, with some kind of call to action that there is more content you can’t see. Clicking on the tweets would then expand them to reveal more content. The point of this is to keep the same look and feel for your timeline, although this design is not necessarily final, sources say.
Some would argue that this project is all about execution. If the experience is too different from what Twitter users are already used to, the effect could be disastrous.
And yet, others will counter that any change to the limit 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.
We’ll reserve further judgment until we know exactly how this new functionality works — assuming the project isn’t scrapped. If Twitter does deliver, though, it will have altered a core feature that was there since the very start. We can argue whether the overall outcome will be positive or negative for the service, but either way it will definitely be hugely controversial.
Update at 2:15 p.m. Pacific: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has effectively confirm that the 140-character limit will be going away, at least in some form.