I heard that Twitter has updated its system and instead of 140 characters you can now use 280? Awesome! How do I get started with the longer tweets?
For such a momentous change in the basic design of the platform, Twitter’s actually had very little fanfare about the change in the system. Fact is, your existing Twitter tools should have magically and automatically updated to take advantage of the doubling of individual tweet posting length. There are some relatively subtle changes that we’ll explore in this piece, but generally speaking, just go for it and you’ll find that you don’t hit a wall at 140 characters any more.
Now, was it a good idea? We’ll have to see. Twitter reports that when it tested out longer tweet support it found “Only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were over 190 characters.” They go on to say that they’re pretty convinced that our timeline reading experience should not change much and that we’ll still see about the same amount of Tweets in any given view. If indeed it’s 5% that expand out and 2% that are over 190 characters, that makes sense. But will it prove to the case after the novelty wears off?
Let’s have a look at the changes, shall we? First off, if you just go to Twitter.com – which is mostly how I interact with Twitter – you’ll find that the character count value has changed subtly:
Can you spot the difference? There’s now a small circle on the lower right that has a darker line slowly curl around it as you type. It’s a nice, albeit quite subtle indication of how much of the 280 character limit you have remaining without annoyingly counting down keystroke by keystroke.
Get too close to the limit and it does change color and add a number, however:
See what’s happening there with the yellow circle and “9” displayed? Go over and, yes, it turns red and you see -3, -4, -5, etc.
Tweets themselves aren’t shown any differently if they’re over 140 characters either. Compare the following, which is an old-style tweet:
Compare that to the new “improved” Twitter:
Just seems, I dunno, busy?
On the mobile side, Twitter has apparently been preparing for this change because without me downloading a new version of the Twitter app for my new iPhone X, suddenly it too had the circle icon in play:
Quite impressive, actually, that they managed to slip this update under our noses and just went live with it on the appropriate day without any particular fanfare or drama. The community is raging in debate of whether it’s a good update, but that’s another story.
So now you know. Me? I’m off to craft some 141 character tweets. Because I never could in the past!