Twitter increases character limits – sort of

On Monday, Twitter announced their moderately altered character limit, in which photos, quotes, videos and GIFs will no longer count against the 140 characters.

Mike Blake/ Reuters/ File
Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and chief executive of Twitter, and chief executive of Square, goes for a walk on the first day of the annual Allen and Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho in this file photo from July 8, 2015. On Monday, Twitter announced changes to its policy capping each tweet at 140 characters.

Twitter, the online social networking service which has built its reputation on the famously brief nature of each tweet, announced a somewhat-updated character limit Monday: Photos, videos, GIFs, so-called quote tweets and polls to messages will no longer count against each message's 140 overall characters.

The changes do not include, however, removing usernames from the character count, which the company promised to do "in the coming months" in a May announcement. 

“We’re exploring ways to make existing uses easier and enable new ones, all without compromising the unique brevity and speed that make Twitter the best place for live commentary, connections, and conversations,” Twitter stated in a corporate blog post back in May. The impending revised character limit was announced under the headline, "express even more in 140 characters," and Twitter stated its overall goal was to allow users to "get even more from your Tweets." 

The announcement came ahead of the actual implementation "so that everything works as it should when we roll these changes out," Twitter said at the time. This week, a company spokesperson told The Washington Post that the username changes would be introduced in the coming weeks to a small batch of users, before a larger roll out. 

Originally founded in 2006, Twitter built a reputation on brevity. Limited to a strict 140 characters, users developed new styles for communicating thoughts, opinions, news stories, and social updates within the provided framework. While the initial popularity launched the start-up into the forefront of the modern media world – a spot that the now multi-billion dollar company still enjoys – increased competition in social media has contributed to a dramatic decline in revenue.

Twitter has struggled in recent years to continue expanding their user base beyond already-dedicated Tweeters, leading some to suggest that its changes are meant to draw in reluctant Twitter users, or make the experience more visual, since images and retweets no longer need to compete for space with text.

While Instagram, the photo-sharing app purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock in 2012, rose to an incredible valuation of $35 billion in 2014, according to the New York Times – with an even greater year predicted by Credit Suisse for 2016 –Twitter has remained somewhat stagnant. Overall Instagram users rose to 400 million in September of 2015, surpassing Twitter and making them one of the more influential companies in the world. Instagram recently added a “live” feature, which puts them directly into competition with platforms like SnapChat that thrive off consistent live updates.

"Twitter's newest features, which could encourage users to attach more photos, may be a response to Instagram's serious marketing success as well," The Christian Science Monitor reported in May:

Twitter's newest features, which could encourage users to attach more photos, may be a response to Instagram's serious marketing success as well. Although the now Facebook-owned Instagram was created four years after Twitter, in 2010, the photo-based site has seen marketing revenue that Dorsey's company desperately needs. 

Instagram advertisers benefit from twice as many ad clicks as other social media sites and its per-follower engagement rate for brands is 120 times higher than on Twitter. It's "no secret" that Instagram's success is largely due to "the overall cohesion of visual content" experienced and produced by the site's 75 million daily users, fellow media site HootSuite explains.

Twitter may have tweaked their formula in an effort to remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly developing industry. But although it will now allow users to post other media files without detracting from the text, actually increasing the character limit may not be in the cards. Twitter has consistently stood by its 140-character limit, feeling that it is directly linked to their brand identity.

"It's staying," said co-founder and current CEO Jack Dorsey on the Today Show in March. "It's a good constraint for us," he said, going on to state that while they will always be working to change and improve their platform, the limit will continue to be involved.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Twitter increases character limits – sort of
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today