When 140 characters are not enough to rant
One of the big pieces of “news” in the last few days is that Twitter may stop counting links and images in the 140 characters permitted for tweets:
While there is other news, this one seems to have the media in an absolute frenzy. Bloomberg reported the news in an article titled “Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit“. The key paragraph is this one:
The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.
Largely unsubstantiated speculation
Read that carefully. What Bloomberg said is the following:
- Some anonymous person said Twitter will stop including links and images (well, image links, effectively) in the 140 characters limit.
- This might happen in the next two weeks.
- Twitter declined to comment.
While all of this might happen, this news report is pretty much unsubstantiated speculation (well, aside from the “person familiar with the matter” who could be a guy who passed an open window where someone who looked like a Twitter employee said something about 140 characters and links).
This speculation has then been reported as pseudo-fact by a variety of other publications. The Verge, for example, reported this:
Twitter is planning on letting users craft longer tweets by not counting photos and links toward its 140-character limit, according to a report from Bloomberg today. The change may happen in the coming weeks, and it would remove one of the more annoying product hurdles that has persisted on Twitter for years. Links and photos currently hog 23 and 24 characters respectively.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this. For one thing, seeing so much copy written about a lot of speculation, especially after the whole 10,000 characters fiasco not too long ago which probably had more credibility because Jack Dorsey made some obscure reference to the possibility.
Secondly, Twitter reportedly declined to make any comment. In other words, Twitter either won’t confirm it because –
- it’s just another rumour about something Twitter is still thinking about;
- Twitter isn’t going to make the change; or
- Twitter is being coy because it thinks this sort of frenzy might just convince all those Facebook users to switch.
Lastly, surely this sort of “news” isn’t worth all this attention? We’re literally talking about roughly two dozen characters where people either post multiple tweets to express a whole thought or do what Dorsey did back in January and publish an image of a lot of text. To add to that, a lot of people even publish thoughts that can’t be contained in 140 characters in those things we old-timers call “blogs” (it’s a real thing and it’s in the dictionary).
It might happen
If this change comes to pass, it will be a good thing. Twitter shouldn’t be counting links and media in the already constrained character limit and commentators have been calling for this change for years.
It won’t change the tweetstorms, tweets attaching images of longer texts and other stuff. It will just mean that users can probably avoid publishing multi-part tweets when they happen to be a word or two over the limit and still want their tweets to be intelligible.
Making this change won’t bring about peace in our lifetime; fix global warming or make the wifi on my train work any better. It really isn’t that big a deal, people.
Originally published at pauljacobson.me on May 17, 2016.