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Twitter is testing a big change: Doubling the length of tweets from 140 to 280 characters

Tweets are about to get longer.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Drew Angerer / Getty

Twitter’s iconic 140-character limit for tweets may be on the way out.

In the hope that it will encourage more people to post, Twitter is doubling the number of characters that some users get for a tweet. The test means that a small group of Twitter users will now get 280 characters per tweet instead of the traditional 140 characters.

Twitter’s character limit is a holdover from the app’s early days when tweets were sent as texts, which were limited to 160 characters. It has since become one of the product’s defining characteristics.

The company explained its decision to expand the limit in a blog post Tuesday, claiming that there are times the limit forces people to “remove a word that conveys an important meaning or emotion,” or keeps people from tweeting altogether.

“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.

Which explains why Twitter is finally testing an expanded character limit: It hopes more space will mean more tweets.

Twitter executives have discussed the idea of expanding the product’s character limit for years. In early 2016, Twitter seriously considered expanding the limit to 10,000 characters, but CEO Jack Dorsey ultimately pulled the plug on that update before it was ever rolled out.

Twitter has since made smaller tweaks to help people share more within the 140-character constraint, like ensuring that usernames and images don’t count against the limit. This is the first time, though, that Twitter has simply increased the number of characters users have to work with.

Twitter noticed that in some languages, like Japanese, where you can convey more meaning in a fewer number of characters, people butt up to the limit much less often than English speakers do. Twitter claims that tweets sent in Japanese reach the full 140 character limit just 0.4 percent of the time, compared to tweets in English, which reach the limit 9 percent of the time.

“Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people Tweeting in English, but it is not for those Tweeting in Japanese,” the company wrote.

Twitter says it will collect data on how the test goes before pushing the change out to all users. It will not give more characters to users tweeting in Japanese, Chinese or Korean, but users who tweet in all others languages could make it into the test group.

We asked if U.S. President Donald Trump — quite possibly the most famous tweeter of them all — would get the new feature. A company spokesperson told us that the test group is selected at random. “[We] won't know until it goes live,” he added.

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