Twitter isn’t abolishing its defining 140-character limit for tweets, but it’s making some big changes so you can do more within those confines. Other tweaks to the way replies work will remove some of the “inside-baseball” Twitter tricks that act as a barrier to entry for new users.
In the future, any media you attach to a tweet—be it an image, video, Periscope stream, poll, whatever—will no longer eat into your precious limit. Twitter’s post doesn’t mention links to websites being regarded as media, so those seem likely to still consume a blanket 23 characters regardless of length. That’s a bit of a bummer, but hey, baby steps.
Twitter users’ @names won’t count against the 140-character limit when you’re making a reply anymore, however, so replies in conversations with multiple people involved should no longer devolve into spit-out single word responses to each other. Yay! And when you start a new message—not a response—with a Twitter user’s @name, Twitter will now show it to all your followers. Before, Twitter counted all messages that started with a user’s handle as a reply, and showed it only to people who followed both the sender and the recipient. If you wanted all your followers to see a message like that, you had to precede the other users’ name with punctuation to work around the system. It looked like this:
No more. Again: Yay!
Continuing with the “kill those inside-baseball workarounds” theme, Twitter’s also enabling the retweet button for your own tweets. That way, if you make a response to another person, you can easily share it with your followers without resorting to the punctuation tricks detailed above. The change means you’ll also be able to quote your own tweets to expand upon your original thoughts.
The changes won’t be available immediately though. Twitter says they “will be available over the coming months,” but it wants to give developers time to prepare for these significant tweaks. Plans for other changes are brewing, the company says. Maybe an edit button? Please an edit button?
The story behind the story: Twitter’s 140-character limit was birthed from the service’s original reliance on SMS messages, but quickly became the service’s standout feature. The introduction of links and support for numerous media types have made that limit feel constrained in recent years, however. This new change—first rumored earlier this month—lets Twitter users have their cake and eat it, too.
Twitter’s also had a tough time bringing new users onboard, and byzantine workarounds to avoid hiding messages that began with an @name sure didn’t help. The changes on those fronts, coupled with the introduction of features like Twitter Moments, should help Twitter noobs feel less like they’re drowning in the stream. Hopefully.