Earlier this fall, Twitter selected a group of special people to be test subjects for a wild idea we never thought would happen — doubling the character count to 280. Since the company’s inception in 2006, we’ve scraped by on the golden count of 140 that has changed the way we send messages via social media. We’ve shortened our speak altogether with Twitter and texting, which if we’re being honest, has changed the English language altogether. We now shorten our verbiage to “u” instead of “you” or “brb” instead of “be right back.” We use link shorteners like bit.ly to squeeze in what we have to say to 140. But, as of November, the full rollout to an expansive 280 count launched to most Twitter-compatible languages.
Twitter initially chose the 140 count so that every tweet would fit into the allotted 160 count that texting allows. Some say that the 140-character count was what made Twitter unique; it certainly paved the way for hashtaggers everywhere to shorten the way they speak and share information to their followers. However, others who have more to say (or clients to satisfy like we here at The Arland Group) worked hard to wordsmith their way into the 140 framework. And, we have to remember that English is not the only language in which tweeters tweet; there are tweeters from all around the world who don’t use our alphabet, creating even further obstacles. However, the rollout did not happen for Chinese, Japanese and Korean tweeters because they can say what they need to say in a more succinct space, according to Twitter.
Now, with 280 characters to work with, we can say more of what we mean in more of the context in which we mean it.
The decision, however, did not come without controversy. According to Tech Crunch, Twitter purists cited that during the trial phase most people continued to tweet at the 140 character count, in fact, only five percent had more. This could be due to habit, however. Twitter claims that those who have more characters to work with have gained more followers and retweets over time, however, Tech Crunch did not have any data to support the claim.
Mashable went so far as to blame millennials for the change, shouting to the rooftops that brevity is clarity and that with 280 whole characters to work with, people will start to get sloppy. My personal argument is that we aim to never be sloppy, no matter how many characters we have.
As a content editor, I viewed the 140 limit as a welcome challenge and a breath of fresh air in opposition to the endless paragraphs of words upon words that could have been said with, for lack of a better word, brevity. It is my hope that tweeters will welcome the 280 with a sense of change and purpose. The Twitter world just doubled, what will you do with it?