One of the defining features of Twitter since its inception has been the character limit, forcing users to be direct and concise. It’s such a big deal that when the limit was doubled, from just 140 characters to 280, it became a subject of primetime TV gags. But under the guiding hand of new owner Elon Musk, there appears to be no line that New Twitter won’t cross. So if you pay up for the Twitter Blue premium service, you can now post up to ten thousand characters in a single tweet.
In case you’re not in the habit of counting your keystrokes, 10,000 characters is approximately 1,800 English words, or six pages of a standard paperback book. Twitter Blue subscribers will also have access to bold, italic, and underline tools denied to everyone else, as reported by The Verge. If that seems antithetical to the very concept of Twitter as a platform for short messages, well, it’s hardly the first time that Twitter has undermined itself in the last year. The move is a fairly obvious response to would-be rival Substack, which recently created a Twitter-style “Notes” feature that focuses on — you guessed it — short messages.
Notably, Twitter blocked embedded tweets in Substack newsletters on Thursday, just one day after Substack announced the Notes feature. It’s a harsh blow to independent writers who treat Substack as a method of both communication and income, and Twitter as the “public square” of opinion and news that attracted Musk to its purchase in the first place. The New York Times quotes Hung Up writer Hunter Harris: “It’s incredibly petty.”
It’s merely the latest in a string of controversial moves by Twitter under Musk’s leadership. Twitter briefly blocked links to social competitors like Mastodon and Instagram, replaced its entire public relations team with a poop emoji, and appeared to openly endorse joke cryptocurrency Dogecoin by replacing its logo. A recent spat with National Public Radio led NPR and PBS to exit the platform. While blocking competitors seems to be against Musk’s oft-repeated philosophy of “free speech absolutism,” the platform itself is becoming a welcome home to hate speech, including racial slurs in the handles of verified Twitter Blue users.
The relevant account was suspended after the story broke, so Twitter may not be entirely immune to press criticism, poop emoji or not.