Opinion

Is Twitter Finally Making a Good Decision About the 140-Character Limit?

Is Twitter Finally Making a Good Decision About the 140-Character Limit?
Highlights
  • Twitter will reportedly stop counting characters in links and images.
  • This change could happen as soon as the end of the month.
  • This will make Twitter easier to use without changing its character.

There have been a lot of rumours and speculation about what Twitter is doing about the 140-character limit for tweets. There has been a lot of hand-wringing, and a lot of condemnation of the idea that Twitter is steadily turning itself into Facebook-lite in the quest to try and become more attractive to advertisers and investors, and to become more accessible to newcomers to the platform too.

A year ago, Twitter dropped the 140 character limit from direct messages, a move which made a lot of sense since these messages don't fill up everyone's timeline and ruin the flow of the user experience.

Now, the company might stop counting photos and links in the 140-character limit, which sounds like a great decision to us. Removing the 140-character limit altogether sounds like a very bad idea that breaks the whole user experience on Twitter. On the other hand, links and pictures are already shortened and then added to tweets so having a few extra characters at hand won't actually affect the timeline. Right now, a link uses up 23 characters in a tweet. Want to share an interesting news story? And a picture to go with it? Things start to get very cramped at this point, and with no real reason either.

(Also see: Why Twitter's Rumoured 10,000 Character Limit Is a Bad Idea)

Of late, Twitter has been plagued with a wide range of changes, often not for the best. Twitter now shows you the "best tweets first", though you can turn this off in the settings page. It's not just been big product changes either - the company changed the stars for 'faves' into hearts for 'likes' - something that most of the existing users really hated. It's only cosmetic, but it's something that mattered to a lot of users.

The fact is that Twitter has lots of ground where it can improve, but most of the changes have just irked the user base and positive developments have been few and far between.

This latest change - if it comes true as reported - on the other hand sounds like a step in the right direction. It doesn't slow Twitter down, or clutter up the feed with long posts. It becomes easier to share images and links - a core part of the Twitter experience for many - without having to commit crimes against grammar to stuff in your caption. At the same time, the amount of text is still capped at the same limit, so your timeline won't really be affected either.

All in all, this sounds like one of the first changes that Twitter has been contemplating in a long time that doesn't make us hate the social network - if anything, the idea sounds pretty good right now.

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Gopal Sathe is the Editor of Gadgets 360. He has covered technology for 15 years. He has written about data use and privacy, and its use in politics. He has also written extensively about the latest devices, video games, and startups in India. Write to gopal@ndtv.com or get in touch on Twitter through his handle @gopalsathe with tips. More
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