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Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit (bloomberg.com)
386 points by davidbarker on May 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 188 comments



The fact that it took this long for them to make such an obvious change speaks to how afraid they are (were?) to challenge core assumptions about the product.


Imo, it shows that, like many of us, they don't really understand why Twitter became so popular. That being the case, they don't know what they can and cannot safely change.


To me, Twitter works because many people prefer to read 100 headlines and know a little about everything, than reading just a big essay. Have a variety of views, rather than just one.

It is better for the reader, not so for the writer. Because of that, I do not understand why they focus so much on getting more writers (login) than readers (views).


That's some assumption you make with no evidence. I'd sooner assume people like reading 100 people who agree with their inner biases or views.


IMO, it's a platform for people to self promote which causes an obvious viral effect.

"follow me at _ on Twitter"


I think looking at it this way is a bit naive. While I agree that "attachments" shouldn't take up tweet text, the 140 character limit is a core component of the service. Call it a micro blog or a mass SMS, Twitter is 140 characters.

That said, I think most comments are missing the point - having attachments not take up characters really won't make the service any more useful to the mainstream... That's the real problem in my opinion.


I don't know, if you post a link as well as an image you're losing 24 characters from a 140 character limit. You lose just less than 20% of the characters available. I think a 20% increase is fairly substantial.


Especially considering most changes are pandering to brands, and this is a use case that we use a lot. (Whether Twitter is a useful channel aside...) extra space for copy will always go down well with the people paying the bills.


The more you think about Twitter the more you understand it, including why it works, and at Twitter, lots of people are thinking about Twitter, so they probably know that SMSes worked like conversation, where the tech forced you to be polite, i.e. not ramble on about something without letting the other party say anything, they should just listen. SMS conversations flows like a oilite chat about the weather. Quick, brief and with nice pauses in between. Maybe that's not what they were after but isn't that what Twitter achieved?


My experience is a lot like that. However one of the core issues Twitter has had in the recent past is that many users were not experiencing polite conversation on twitter. They were experiencing harassment instead.


It's hard to blame them for that, though. They made a blog with a 140-character limit and it became one of the most valuable companies in the world. Who knows what it will become if they fiddle with anything?


"Public SMS" is a more apt description.


It wasn't really a blog though, right? Maybe it began as "a real-time blog aggregator, where blogs only have titles". I believe nowadays it's the network effect that keeps them, not the technology itself.


A description that, I think, would also fit HN ...


An astute observation. Yet people do not assume that HN will rival Facebook, nor do they place valuations in the hundreds of billions on it.

Twitters troubles come from a misguided impression of what it is supposed to be, creating pressure on the product to not be what it in fact is.


Isn't this a common concern with most startups which seek to grow beyond 6, 7 or 8 figures?


It is, but just like your local neighbourhood cafe knows they will not be an 8-figure company, so should a lot of tech companies.


oblig: s/affect/effect/

Still I think the 140 character limit was in part due to their continued success; I know when I look at a tweet, I'm not going to get a 1000-word dissertatino on a subject - I will get bite-size pieces of info (for the most part, except for the multi-part diatribes or conversations, which I generally ignore).

Link anxiety is a real thing - I'm less likely to click if it's going to absorb my attention for 5m+.


oblig pointing out of incorrect oblig correction. network effect[0] is absolutely correct.

edit: for the downvotes- [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect


parent made an edit from affect to effect, so I guess my recommendation was taken to heart :)


Fair point though, it's confusing. Can't you edit your post and remove the correction now that it's irrelevant? And then we can delete this entire unnecessary subthread :)


Honestly, i didn't. I guess you misread. Besides, i wouldn't be able to edit my comment an hour later.


Microblog, but sure..


Whilst Twitter has someone tweet the occasional gem, it's genuinely few and far between. I honestly feel that the format was great when it was only really programmers who used it (and even then I'm not so sure...) but limiting people to 140 characters, even discounting images and links, means most people can't convey views on most complex issues.

I have an unpopular view, but I'm firmly of the belief that all Twitter did was amplify the voice of celebrities - most of whom have not much to really say, made it easier for abusive speech to be targeted towards individuals and amplified moral outrage. Facebook has as well, but nowhere near as badly as Twitter.

Ironically, sometimes it's been for the better. But for every https://twitter.com/RabbiJason/status/728404847381204993 there is a https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/24046226568028979...

Sometimes you even get something like this:

https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/313417655879102464

Edit: like I say, it's an unpopular view! If only someone would tell me why my view is wrong or unreasonable. In 140 characters...

Edit 2: It's suddenly occurred to me that if someone was able to give a highly convincing argument in favour of Twitter's ability to convey all complex arguments and views and did so with a lengthy response, but there was no way of distilling the message to 140 characters... would that invalidate it?


Definitely twitter is entirely about who you follow. I tried it out early on, saw no value, and ignored it for a year or two, until a friend convinced me it has some value, and there are two uses I find.

I follow several programmers (some internet famous, some merely who I've found from using a project they worked on or someone else's retweet), and through that, find it interesting to get a glimpse at what other people are doing or finding challenging, or see when there's buzz around some new technology in my space.

The other thing I find it useful for is local updates in my (relatively small) city. Traffic updates, road closures, police activity, events, etc. The local public works and city hall accounts are surprisingly active and often useful. I also follow a handful of restaurants nearby the office: they often tweet lunch specials.

I follow exactly zero mainstream celebrities, never look at 'Moments', 'trending', etc -- I find those things full of crap I simply don't care about at all.


That has been my observation as well. It's quite useful as an segregator for local information. Probably because of the character limitation. I think there's a psychological positive to it as in "well I only have to type about 140 characters" (said the event organizer, police pr person, town hall person etc.)

The change will be nice because it'll hopefully be easy to parse the metadata for attachments (images, url) and it should be more elegant to handle them in general than regexping them out.


I treat it a bit like a RSS feed aggregator.


What's the best strategy for avoiding harassment? I have a Twitter account, but very, very rarely use it. It's my biggest concern really.

Knowing strategies to avoid just nasty people is the main issue I have with it. Like, if you go into Twitter and see that you have a whole bunch of Gamer Gayers targeting you (just an example, I can't see how I would be a target!) then I'd imagine having no Twitter would be preferable to actually having a Twitter account!


You don't have to actually post anything. I use Twitter to consume information, not to blast it. Sometimes I'll retweet a project or maybe post an interesting bit of code, but that's unlikely to attract any negative attention. Avoid posting or retweeting contentious information, you'll be fine.


> Knowing strategies to avoid just nasty people

Perhaps refrain from using childish insults like Gamer Gayers. Like attracts like.


Yow! That is fully an iPhone spelling fail. That was not in any way intended. Sorry about that!


Alternatively, it is fully a lack of proofreading before hitting reply fail :-)

Either way, yes, out of all the words to misspell, that one was quite unfortunate.


Touché


You could, and should, edit it.


Actually he can't. HN has a time limit on edits, and it's expired for my post above, which means it's also expired for his.


That was, sadly, correct.


I'd imagine having no Twitter would be preferable to actually having a Twitter account!

To some people it's so valuable to use as a means of participating in their community of choice that they're willing to keep using it despite severe harrasment.

Not being a woman gives you a big advantage against harrasment. But it can come from all sorts of weird places. My wife is a big Eurovision tweeter and encountered people who search for "Macedonia" to tweet Greek nationalist abuse at.


If some random person is harassing you, just block them. It's really simple. They can't see your tweets, and you won't see theirs.


You're only likely to be 'targetted' by anyone if you post strong opinions on contentious topics. Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't, but you should be prepared to defend your views or ignore certain reactions. This is all just real life, after all.


I think it depends who you choose to follow. Twitter can be different things to different people. I've never been a big fan of Twitter myself, but I follow about a dozen programmers and a few sporting brands and I get some value from that.

Your argument of Twitter being better when only programmers used it doesn't really apply if you only follow programmers, does it?


> Your argument of Twitter being better when only programmers used it doesn't really apply if you only follow programmers, does it?

That's a fair point.


I have never been a fan of the concept. You have to work really hard to force an interesting thought into 140 characters, which leads most people just post throwaway snark and dark humor. And reading backwards through a chain of posts to simulate a real post is just stupid. I made several attempts to use the thing, anyway, because "everyone else was using it."

I eventually came to use 2 accounts, one anonymous, to interact with brands and personalities (but I repeat myself), and one personal, to keep up with people I knew first-hand. The former devolved into just ranting about everything that I found sub-optimal (usually about the .NET workflow for my day job), and the latter didn't generate enough interesting activity to care about. Both were just negative pressures on my daily activity, so I finally just shut down both.


Isn't that most if the mainstream Internet in the English language? I mean why is your aunt on Instagram? Why is your dad using Snapchat?

What value do these services have 90% of their users but provide a throughline to celebrities?


Twitter is not great for complex arguments over differing views. Hardly anywhere on the internet is, though! In order to do that you need a small heavily moderated community.

Twitter is great for zeitgeist, silliness, mass-participation solidarity politics (this isn't very thoughtful, yes, but that's not always the most important thing), following live events, international fandoms, and kibitzing.


It was originally a blogging service - people would use it as an online diary (like livejournal) and follow personal friends. The broadcast/aggregation aspect came later.


Maybe they were still accounting for the tiny percentage of SMS users.


that's correct. don't know about today, but SMS users were still fairly substantial in 2011 when Twitter introduced native photo uploads. they wanted to be able to include the photo URL in the SMS.


Agree. We've told them this directly for years. Whats next?


Edit!


Being able to edit something that someone has already retweeted seems ripe for abuse.


Essentially a tweet ID should be a pointer to "latest version", but with historical versions preserved and available at the same visibility level as the parent (typically public) and a small indicator would show that it has been edited and the history is available.

But all of those, "Damn I made a typo or dumb spelling (thx mobile keyboard) and yet it has been replied to or re-tweeted already"... all of that is solved by edit with visible history.


I think it's still ripe for abuse.

Case 1:

I write "I love cats!" You RT it. I edit it to "I am Al Queda." The FBI visits you.

Case 2:

I write "I am Al Queda." I edit it to "I love cats!" before you see it. You like cats, too, so you RT it. The FBI has a slow feed, so they see that you endorsed my Al Queda membership. They pay you a visit.

---

From a systems point of view, when your whole stack is designed around immutability (so you can serve archives of past tweets from append-only CDNs, for example) it may be nigh impossible to add editing.


I think it already happened with a troll baiting racists. He waited for a lot of RT then changed the source of the embedded racist picture with something like "I am a big disgusting stupid racist". Something like that. It was a good one, though.


The original example is gamefaqs introduction of edits. What is your shoe size?

11

Then the question changes to an age related question. What is the ideal age of a prostitute?


Fun fact: this particular example won't work in Japan, where typical shoe sizes are around 25–29.


But there the typical ... nah I won't go there.


Just imagine the gargantuan changes that could be necessary for small tweaks like that. Twitter was built on RoR originally, so it was probably a pretty standard relational model, then they did massive scaling for huge read/write loads, then they did massive scaling for real time features, god knows how hard it would be just to add a foreign key. I really, really, want to take a day and just go through all their engineering blogs after only glimpsing a few..


Honestly, if they only designed to scale and did not anticipate iterating on the product, they deserve to fail. My guess is that this not a trivial change but worth the effort.


No one deserves to fail because of challenges they couldn't have anticipated in the future.

We call that "learning".


That's a recipe for disaster. You don't edit SMS, why should you be able to edit tweets?


I can see the use case if it's a extremely short edit window.. something like 30-60s, basically to catch that stupid typo. That doesn't solve the abuse angles but it gives a much smaller opportunity for it to happen.

Short of [mega star], few tweets see much favoriting/RTing in that window.


Exactly! I'd say I am strongly against the ability to edit tweets. I'd even put it higher than the strict reverse chronological flow of tweets that I prize so much that I still allow Twitter to send me tweets by SMS.


Edit seems much harder to implement. This basically adds some metadata to the Tweet model instead of embedding it within the body text. That's a change and it needs to be implemented all over, but it is pretty backwards compatible.

It seems that one of the fundamental assumptions is that Tweets are immutable. Changing that could break all kinds of things and would probably their systems significantly more complicated.


Even Facebook has an edit feature for a long time now with a revision history of posts/comments. No issues of abuse. This isn't rocket science.


Facebook has had abuse from pages that got likes, and then later changed their title and purpose.


You can do this on any social media though.


Facebook posts aren't as public-facing by default. AFAIK there's no FB equivalent to the retweet, in that the content of a FB share is not quite the same as the relation between a retweet and the original tweet.


You can do a share with zero added text = retweet You can also do a share of a link post keeping "the original post"


Hashtags and @-replies could also theoretically be moved from the message body and into metadata fields.


That should be nice, I need that option.


Do you think these moves can save what Twitter use to be once? I believe not. Twitter has lost the social game. They never pivoted when Facebook was making continuous efforts to slay them. And in that time, they lost a lot of their audience to SnapChat, Instagram, WhatsApp and many other apps.


If its such a obvious model why not create another obvious model and make billions?


Isn't that the difference between Facebook and Twitter? Twitter got stuck on their once-innovative features. Facebook is changing more quickly than people can keep track of.


There's a lot of weird misunderstandings about how Twitter worked in the early days. I.E. "SMS encoded in 7-bit is 140 bytes." Something about native photo urls. A lot of this, I think, is because people lack context of what the social media and technological landscape looked like in 2006.

Twitter basically started on SMS, back in the day. There wasn't really an app because there weren't major smartphone platforms outside of PalmOS and Blackberry. A lot of my friends made SMS posts to Facebook or LiveJournal, but you never got comments or responses back, so it was very one-way.

That's where Twitter really hooked you back then. You signed up, registered your phone number, and tweets got sent as SMS messages to your phone. The 140 limit provided 18 characters for a username, colon, space, and the tweet. There were commands for following, blocking, etc. and later, direct messaging.

So you got tweets back from people you followed when you sent out a tweet. It really, truly was, as other folks have said in here, mass SMS.

You'd meet someone at a bar, and just send follow NewFunPerson to the Twitter short code and bam, their tweets were texted to you.

All the other stuff that people like about microblogging was just a side effect. Twitter was written to get to people's phones back when the only universal for mobile platforms (in the United States at least) were that you could send a text message. That immediacy, the ability to blast out something quick and get the replies back on your phone was everything.

Also, at a time when Facebook was still struggling with the fact that "Friends" were a two-way street (Following and Pages weren't a thing yet), the one-way nature of the follow relationship allowed you a lot of access to celebrities with minimal effort on the part of the celebrity. You just found Britney Spears, hit follow, and done. She (rather, her publicist) did exactly nothing to get you there, and now you know there's a new single coming out exclusively at FYE tomorrow. Cha-ching.

Twitter seized upon all the weak points of Facebook, made do with what was available in mobile, and hit gold. After that, when mobile apps hit, Twitter took all those interesting "side effects" of their 140 character limit and built on those instead, pivoting to emphasize microblogging, hashtags, and immediacy, since SMS wasn't there. And, to be honest, these things are very, VERY likely something that you get because of 140 characters.

So yeah, Social Media History 101.


What I find stupid is that the length of usernames counts in the message. A message to @myfriend can be longer than a message to @myfriendblessednaycursedwithalongername


It made sense during the time period it came about. You have 160 characters for an SMS. 140 allows 20 characters for @names, commands, etc.

When my friends and I first started using Twitter, we basically used it as a group chat, similar to Hangouts/FB today.


My understanding is that actually there is no extra 20, it's precisely the length of an SMS. SMS is 160 characters, yes -- but in a 7-bit encoding (which is actually transmitted as a 7-bit encoding, not padded to octets like ASCII). That makes 140 bytes, which is what Twitter allows (or presumably originally allowed; I guess now longer characters still only count for 1 rather than multiple).


No, there's an extra 20.

SMS messages are 140 bytes: 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit characters, or 70 UCS-2 16-bit characters.

Twitter used 160-character text messages, where 140 characters were the tweet itself, and the rest was the username.


I don't think it did. Phone numbers are not included in the length of SMS messages - the destination is separate header data that is used in routing and not considered part of the message body. If I sent a message to a special "four digit" phone number or to a full 10-digit number, or even an international text message (not mms) with 40 digits in the address, the message length is not in any way shortened as a result. (Of course once a UDH is needed to deal with message concatenation, etc (which never really work, anyway) the limit is reduced to 153 characters - still longer than twitter's (lame) limit, in all cases.)

The whole "we need twenty characters to set aside the destination" was such a hollow rational that never made any sense. IIRC, it was revealed at some point that the 140 character message limit for tweets was basically the result of someone sitting down and doing a brief, informal testing of whatever they thought to be "the average sms message" and that's the number they ended up with.


> the destination is separate header data that is used in routing and not considered part of the message body

Right but how could Twitter have put data into the separate header in an SMS message? They can't do that. Hence the 140 character limit (the 160 hard maximum for them being able to put into a message and then minus 20 characters for commands).


I don't think a lot of people realize that when twitter was new, one of the main use cases was sending an SMS to 40404 to post.


Actually it's possible to put up to 11 alphanumeric characters into the sender field.


Possible, but would make the user experience worse as then they couldn't reply to the text, if they wanted to respond (send a tweet back, etc.) they would have to go out of the message, find the Twitter number, open it up and reply there.


Does that help any with this problem? I'm not seeing it.


No, I am just pointing out the interesting technical detail.


@Im @guessing @its @because @you @could @get @around @the @message @size @limits @if @at @marks @did @not @count @against @your @total @size?


How about only discounting the first one, and only if it's a legit name?



URLs longer a shortened URL are displayed truncated. (All URLs are actually t.co links underneath)


Can I write a whole book in the URL part? Maybe if I used a different UTF character for space?


That coupled with the number of time they allow you to change it is quite silly too.


I wonder what they will do once people start using http://the.links http://to.write.longer http://messages


Anyone wanting to bypass the 140 limit is already doing so using an image with text in it. And anyone who spams really long messages using URLs is going to see their followers count drop pretty rapidly.


> using an image with text in it.

yep....

https://twitter.com/jack/status/684496529621557248


I like your optimism


Hasn't twitter been replacing long URLs with their own short URLs for a while now? So this change probably won't make a difference, assuming users will still have to hover the link to see the tooltip of the full URL.


The short answer is that they won't care much.

Twitter's job right now is to figure out how to make their UX less niche and grow market share before they lose ground to the Whatsapps and Snapchats of the world, not to police edge cases that are better managed by simple social norms.


My point is that this will become the new social norm, much like now it is the norm to write short cryptic messages that readers may or may not understand.


I hope they only zero-count the first link. That allows 140 characters of commentary + the link and limits abuse.


Will-this-be-the-new-hashtag.com


Long URLs are truncated and ellipsized, e.g.:

this-is-a-long-url-with-a-very-very-very-domain-name.com/and-a-sorta-long-path-component-but-still-long-enough-to-trigger-shortening

is displayed as

…with-a-very-very-very-domain-name.com/and-a-sorta-lo…


Given how important domain names are for security, it would be concerning if domain names get truncated.

I could craft:

evil.net/this-is-a-very-very-long-path/bankofamerica.com/account-settings/blah/blah/blah

Which, depending on how this is implemented, might render to

...bankofamerica.com/account-settings/blah/blah/blah


this horse bolted long ago with ubiquitous shortURL services


The domain and path are truncated separately. Your example would be displayed as evil.net/this-is-a-very-very-lo…


So evil-bank-of-america.net would do?


That wouldn't be truncated, no. It's not long enough.


Might be preferable to the current practice of simply putting longer texts into images.


Probably not since links get converted to t.co links, right?


yes-but-they-get-shown-semi-expanded.hashtag


god-i-hope-not.com it-is-dns-noise.ugh


The beauty of twitter is to tweet with concise messages. I'd be disappointed if this 140 characters restriction got removed.


I find it quite frustrating. I can easily say what I want on other platforms because I can write what I need to without worrying about every single word.

Twitter makes me stop and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and finally get something that fits in 140 and makes sense for the most part after the third read if you understand me and all the context surrounding the thing I said.

I suppose it's at least partially generational for me but it seems so inelegant. Like we're in a global bit shortage.


I mostly disagree. Sure, I've been frustrated at times when I can't express an idea in 140 characters, but in general, I think the limitation is a benefit. As a creator, it makes me distill my tweet to the purest essence of what I'm trying to say, and as a consumer, it lets me scan through my timeline quickly.

Also, there's nothing stopping people from tweeting an idea and including a link to a blog/gist/whatever where they add more context.

And if Twitter does expand the limit, I hope they do it in a way that is essentially a structured version of a link to something else. For example, keep the 140 character limit, but also let people attach a longer note – up to, say, 5000 characters, maybe with simple Markdown formatting. Support it in all official clients and give 3rd-party clients a way to support it too.

I have no problem with them expanding the limit as long as I can still scroll through my timeline, seeing 140-max tweets with an option to click on one to see the expanded version, without leaving my Twitter client or loading a whole webpage. A worse option would be to just show the first 140 characters of a longer note. I think there's value in forcing people to be concise, but I also get that there's value in letting people post longer messages and keeping all of that content in-network.

This long comment is ~1,360 characters.


> Sure, I've been frustrated at times when I can't express an idea in 140 characters, but in general, I think the limitation is a benefit.

Doesn't that lead to a tendency for low quality content (content that can be consumed in a few seconds, like animated gifs, quotes, etc)? I usually want to read in-depth articles and editorials, or thoughtful comment threads.


Yeah, fair point. It's nearly impossible to explore a big, high-quality idea on Twitter, but I personally use it mostly as a discovery tool, not a discussion or exploration tool.

Based on the people I follow, I get exposed to a lot of news and ideas I might have otherwise missed, but I don't need or want Twitter to be the place where I dig in for more details. I'm fine clicking a link or Googling something if I think it's interesting enough to warrant further investigation.

I guess my main concern is that if Twitter tries to be all things to all people it's going to lose its special utility as a discovery engine. In other words, I don't want Twitter to become Facebook or a glorified RSS reader. For me, Twitter is the best source for breaking news and ideas ignored by mainstream media, sprinkled with tidbits from friends I know IRL.

In general, I'm happy with what it is now, perhaps with some better controls for blocking and preventing abuse. If they can find a way to keep the concise sharing/discovery aspect while integrating longer content, I'm cool with that – albeit a bit skeptical.


This discussion sorely misses people who subscribe to tweets by SMS. Here are a few from my stream. Please feel free to draw your own conclusions:

@MKBHD: From this weekend... #ultimate https://t.co/1bSuvFueee/s/9EwY

m.twitter.com/MKBHD

--

@woot: $134.99 : Philips BR-30 Hue Starter Pack Bonus Kit https://t.co/X5Thalnvvr/s/JR-S

m.twitter.com/woot

--

@maryjofoley: There is a new local OneDrive app for Win 10 for PCs and phones available for download. Not just for Insiders: https://t.co/25ADHBXwdY/s/KNYy

--

@BernieSanders: All over this country, Native Americans have suffered far too much, and for far too long. They deserve a voice. https://t.co/jGqJcNuUOC/s/u4Wc

--

1/2: @maryjofoley: MS broadening Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection preview: https://t.co/TvE43LrKmZ/s/7ZJh Possibly coming by Q3: https://t.co/e5hilZu 2/2: SoJ/s/-5Fn

--

1/2: @MicrosoftOEM: RT @majornelson: Hey #SanFrancisco: I'll be there this Saturday to help open the new @Razer store. If you are in the area stop by https://t 2/2: .co/InwMnkn6xh/s/IIVm

--


True. I never think about the SMS angle, which of course was the original need for the limitation.


Finding the core of an idea always takes more time than writing a wall of text. But in a world where a message is read much more often than it's written it makes no sense to offload this cost onto the reader.


He said, in 209 characters.

You need to remove all nuance to fit any reasonably complex idea in 140 characters . And so we're left with soundbites and absolutes, the backbone of all good discussions!


We are finally truly in the age of the soundbite. Lucky us?


I feel really stupid when I try to read tweets because half the time I can't figure out what it actually being said because either there is context missing or there are odd abbreviations... or idk... :(


It doesn't matter that you find it frustrating. It matters that by forcing you to be concise twitter improves the reader experience.

Twitter is optimized for readers, not writers.


Twitter is optimized for superficial reading. Some ideas are more complicated than a one-liner.


Yes. Totally fair point.


For those you could write a normal blogpost and tweet the url and a 140 character -len(url) abstract.


> Twitter is optimized for readers,

Twitter is optimized for SMS.


> Twitter is optimized for readers, not writers.

For a certain kind of reader.


Isn't the solution to that not using Twitter? If you want Facebook/Google+/... you know where to find them; the 140-char thing is the whole point of Twitter.


It's not a bit shortage, it's an attention shortage.


Concision is Twitter's only real point of differentiation. If they let people post blog posts, then it becomes identical to any other social blogging service. Why would they want to do that?


> Concision is Twitter's only real point of differentiation.

Really, the size is an artifact of the early importance of SMS as a mechanism for Twitter. If SMS isn't important to Twitter anymore, I can see why it makes sense to reconsider the limit.

Even if concision is a positive differentiator, there's no reason a limit based on SMS's limitations must be treated as unalterable.


Restrictions are not always good even if the ultimate goal is concise messages. It's hard finding anyone's twitter feed nowadays where people are not getting around the character limit by including screenshots of text. It's EVERYWHERE and it's not easily indexed to be searched.

They have to increase the limit otherwise people will get tired of using the workarounds (because, let's face it, it's practically impossible to have any kind of meaningful conversation at 140 characters at a time). It won't be to 5,000 but I would be surprised if they don't eventually go up to, say, 500 max.


that beauty has turned tweets into incomprehensible multitweets and images of text.

what i don't understand is why they haven't built long-form notes that can be inserted into a tweet, just like images can be inserted.


There were things like Tweet Longer, and TwitPic (before Twitter had images) and lots of other little services that built on top of Twitter.

Twitter then started doing a lot of that stuff on its own and tried to kill off the other services (3rd party clients like Falcon Pro, TwitPic, etc.)

What was once a beautiful ecosystem to support this interesting 140 character thing got gobbled back up by a company that realized it needed to monetize.


I expected them to display the first 140 characters or so then have longer content expand upon tapping into the tweet once they started introducing those cards into the tweets.


Now that is a good idea!


if you include an image the limit is 120.

As a URL is some redirect service, I believe that drops the limit by 12 per url.

The 140 limit is not being removed


Agreed. This is a bad decision. Its always interesting to see how language and thought process changes when limited by the amount you can say.

If you are going include a link then you should be penalized since links are expensive tax for the readers.

Twitter's beauty was that it was easy to predict your mental tax you are going to pay for reading a tweet. Now its unpredictable.


I'm sure the spammers and hashtag abusers will be delighted at this change. More opportunity to stuff a tweet #with #all #sorts #of #extra #hashtags. /s


I think hashtags still count towards the limit.


He's not saying they don't, just that now there will be more characters remaining for extra hashtags that would previously have been used up by the image/links.


A very good idea, I just hope it isn't abused with Tweets full of links.


Good, they should have done this a long time ago.

It always would have been trivial to remove URLs from the data and throw it into metadata, where character limits do not matter.

Shame it took 2446 days for this basic idea to come to fruition:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=804977


Real question. I avoided Twitter for years, and finally bit the bullet recently.

The problem is my feed is out of control. Is there a way to filter it?

For example, I want to only match the travel deals by regex (my city), the politics stuff by popularity, etc.

I was under the impression that Twitter closed off their API to 3ed parties, so maybe this is no longer possible.

On a side note, my current company recently switched to a MicroService framework based on Twitter Finagle / Finatra. At first, I was grumpy (damn Hipsters, another failure a la Node and Mongo), but as I learn more about it and Scala, I'm really impressed!


This is a long standing problem with Twitter.

For me, the best way to deal with it has been "Lists" (note: they're hard to figure out and use, and the interface and location of lists is different on every platform).

Twitter has long known that feed management is a major issue for users (especially new users). Unfortunately, they seem unhurried to do something about it.


Twitter's onboarding process is a mess. Last time I checked they offer up some "famous" people for you to follow, and then leave you to it to work out how to extract value from the feed.

If you can be bothered to spend hours setting up lists and/or carefully curating who you follow you might be able to extract value from your feed. Failing that, a third party app like Tweetdeck might help. IMO all of this is too much hard work.


Check out Tweetdeck's search columns.

You can still write scripts that use the API. But it's rate-limited.


A lot of people are quick to jump on the criticise Twitter bandwagon here - but I think A) this is a good compromise between giving people what they want and a bit more freedom without losing the core aspect of the service and B) there are plenty of people that like Twitter the way it is and now no longer use sites like Facebook because Twitter is good at what it's good at - sharing small pieces of information, globally, without intruding on your life.


Could this be seen as some kind of attempt to hold-off Snapchat/Instagram photo-sharing competition and keep attention in their platform? Personally I don't like the image taking away from the limit, feeling pretty indifferent on the links part. Overall my impression is that this would be a reasonable change, whereas taking a hammer to the 140 limit as a general concept might not be a proper avenue.


I doubt it. The sharing models and overall experience of Snapchat sharing and Twitter are radically different and this doesn't change it in a meaningful way.


Twiiter is in a fight for its life right now, this is definitely an attempt to retain current users and encourage usage.


Would be nice if pic.twitter.com links didn't link to videos with sound too that auto-play with sound when in their mobile app


This sounds like the number of photos could be unlimited as number of photos is also affected by the 140 char limit. This kept the quality of photos / videos high. So could expect galleries of rubbish / low quality attached to a tweet?

But maybe this is discussed. I haven't RTFA.


How are they technically going to SMS the photos and links within 140 characters then?


I would venture to guess that fewer and fewer of their users are on sms interfaces for Twitter, and more than 90% are on smart phones. Thus the character limit isn't as big of a deal.


Stackexchange comments behave the same way, and it has always bugged me. Maybe they will notice this and change the char count behavior in comments as well?


They should just quit with the limit. It was an amusing "brand". But it's become a millstone, blocking thoughtful posts and promoting shoutiness.


Expect to see t.co/links-that-look-like-this


You can do that already. Storing arbitrary data in long URL's has been possible since the introduction of URL shorteners (play.rust-lang.org uses this extensively)


Yes, but if URLs don't count against your char limit, then it becomes more attractive. Previously there would be no point in trying to hide data in short links, because they still counted against your character count


This is how you break backwards compatibility.


Also, I think Unicode characters only count as one character. This is now totally disconnected from SMS.


Yes, they count the number of normalised Unicode code points. They don't care how many bytes they take up.


They should count the words in photos of text posted to get around the limit, though.


Nice update - Been missing this for a loooong time.


Wow, disruptive technology!


I predict Twitter's character limit will either double every two years or it's user base will.


When all else fails, turn your product into a spamvertising platform.


RIP twitter


Twitter popularized those URL shortening services. It is now kinda like Chinese foot binding tradition(making feet shorter to conform to social expectations) - was popular for some time, but then it went away. The same could happen to URL shortening companies out there.


WHY IS THIS NEWS???!


Why did this make the front page of HN?


You mean, compared to the other tech-irrelevant stuff that fills most of the frontpage?


I'm assuming what you're really asking is; why is this news when their peers are venturing into amazing new fields like self-driving cars, immersive VR and AR, AI, chat bots etc., meanwhile, Twitter continues to agonise over how many characters to allow in a tweet (and subsequently presenting the decision as an amazing product update). Valid question!


This is long over due. Can they fix this...

When a Tweet starts with a @username, the only users who will see it in their timeline (other than the sender and the recipient) are those who follow both the sender and the recipient.

".@someone Hello I want to respond to you but in public!"


That's not a bug/something that needs fixing? The exponential increase in noise would make twitter even less useful.

The last thing my timeline needs is to see all of the crap the people I follow are saying to people I don't care to follow.


Right, this is very much a feature not a bug. I have friends who do corporate customer service through Twitter and the feed would be a disaster if every response or "@" to someone was in the main stream of tweets.

It still shows up if two people you follow are @ing each other, which is a great way to jump into the conversation if desired.


I believe I was more commenting on the behavior of the period and @ ".@" to a average user I think the understanding the intention and the ability to quickly pick up this feature/behavorial cue is a toughie.


What is your suggested fix?


Visual indication on the compose tab with popover that explains the concept.


I feel the opposite. I think this system works well. I find it easy to view a conversation with @replies when I want to. The rest of the time I don't want to see misc conversational tweets. There are more elegant ways to respond too, like "That's a great point @andyfleming".


When Twitter first started, @replies went to everyone like you propose, and they changed to the current model.


Much earlier in Twitter's history, there was a setting you could change to either show or hide conversations between people you followed and ones you didn't; they took it away on purpose. Personally I think quoting tweets and responding in there is the best way to reply to something publicly, but regardless, they aren't likely to change the @-reply behavior at this point.


I agree because most people use Twitter where they replace a person's name with @personsname so they get a notification of it. Referring to people should work like this in my opinion. Honestly it should notify you even if an @ wasn't included similar to how hashtags essentially don't matter anymore.

Edit: seems people disagree with me.

You can't create a feature that limits natural parts of speech. It's just simply not a good user experience. For instance let's say I want to talk about how awesome someone is. Or hell I simply want to introduce one person to another. It may be natural for me to say "Person A, I would like you to meet Person B". That's simply not possible with how replies are currently setup so you have to put a character in front or re-word it.

Yes re-wording is viable but why should someone change the way they converse only so their intended audience can reach them? That is not a good user experience.

What Twitter needs to do is allow you to send a message out to everyone, even if it starts with a user reference, like it used to be. The rub is changing the way conversations work. Conversations are frustrating as hell on Twitter. They need to rework them so that it doesn't rely on an @user but instead thread them. There is a difference between regular messages and a threaded one.

A threaded conversation could also make it easier to link to different conversations people have. Right now it's just jumbled into one huge, stupid pile of crap that's not easy to sort through.


> Honestly it should notify you even if an @ wasn't included similar to how hashtags essentially don't matter anymore.

One problem with that is that dozens of people have identical names. The @name works because it's a unique identifier... though people still sometimes send tweets to the wrong person.


> why should someone change the way they converse

In a 140 character limited context, they're already doing that.


I feel like the way they expect this to be done now is by retweeting with a comment added. Though yes there is a case in the middle still supported by the "." technique and it is less than idea. I suppose you can't fix everything.


".@someone" has important dogpiling functionality which is absolutely essential for Twitters most dedicated users.




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