Since its inception, Twitter has revolved around a single number: 140. That’s the number of characters you can use in each tweet, but a new report claims that the company is about to drastically change that limit. How drastically? Try 10,000 characters.
Re/code and the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Twitter is either considering or planning to add a feature that would allow tweets to expand from their standard 140 characters all the way up to 10,000.
The company is apparently in the process of building the feature, which it refers to internally as “Beyond 140.” It plans to launch the feature sometime in the first quarter of 2016.
It goes without saying, but such a change could drastically alter the manner in which Twitter users communicate. It would do away with tweetstorms and multi-tweet rants and could potentially allow Twitter to become a publishing platform similar to Medium or Tumblr.
In June of last year, Twitter altered its direct-message tool to remove the previous 140-character limit and allow messages of up to 10,000 characters. The change was well received, but private Twitter messages between individuals are far different from tweets on a user's public feed. If Twitter is indeed planning to roll out much longer public messages, it will almost certainly need to also introduce some way of managing how those message appear on the timeline.
The Journal story notes that this is part of Twitter's planning:
"For tweets that are longer than 140 characters, users will have to click and expand to see the rest of the text. As users write beyond the 140-character limit, Twitter will signal to them that they have crossed the threshold as a way to encourage brevity."
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the reports.
Update 4:18pm CT, Jan. 5: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a screenshot of a lengthy response to the media reports, explaining that the 140-character restriction may indeed change in the near future but not outright confirming when or to what extent that will happen.
Dorsey emphasized that the short, punchy cadence of Twitter remained important to him—even going so far as to break his blurb into several tweet-length bursts—and promised to give developers a warning before the company makes any concrete changes.
Illustration by Max Fleishman