The small percentage of users who will be able to post longer tweets have been randomly chosen, giving those users special privileges during the experiment.
The company declined to comment directly on how it's choosing those people or why it's changed its mind about sticking to its 140-character limit. "Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English", the company said in a blog post.
Users may also argue Twitter should focus less on the length of the tweets, and more on the content. Twitter continues to be rife with harassment and abuse, despite the company's efforts to better police it. Just previous year, rumors that Twitter might start using an algorithm to fiddle with the order of tweets led to the #RIPTwitter meltdown.
The days of Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) limiting messages to 140 characters, a signature of the social network since its launch in 2006, may be numbered. This includes clamping down on 10 times as many abusive tweeters compared to past year, expanding its mute function to combat bullying and harassment and showing users how to report abusive tweets. "Most Japanese tweets are 15 characters while most English tweets are 34". Especially given that Twitter has been under increasing pressure to find more users and get them to tweet more, particularly since going public in 2013.
Twitter says it hopes people will embrace the change.
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Twitter observed that 9% of tweets in English hit the 140-character limit vs. only 0.4% in Japanese, which suggested that certain languages could benefit from having more available characters for tweets.
Characters in those languages can often express more than Roman characters can, meaning those users already, in effect, have a higher limit. The notion that 140 characters are too restrictive is almost as old as Twitter itself, and 280 characters have always been an obvious upgrade-one that social-media power user Robert Scoble said he'd be willing to pay $20 a month for way back in March 2007. If you use Japanese kanji characters, it's three. If the new Double Stuf tweets get rolled out to all Twitter users, they might feel less like a bang than a whimper.
"When people don't have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting", the company wrote. "But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint". Those users tend to bump up against the character limits less often, which Twitter said leads to more frequent messages. Not all of those changes have been welcomed by its most devoted users; Twitter has reversed policy before due to user complaints.
Twitter's founders, including Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, wanted a limit just below the SMS cap of 160 characters.
It also stopped counting images and other media attached to tweets as part of the character limit in an attempt to improve the service.