The unexpected consequences of Twitter’s expanded 140-character limit

Angus Kidman 25 May 2016


Tweets aren't getting longer, but some of the new changes will create fresh annoyances.

After weeks of speculation that it might enable people to start writing much longer tweets, Twitter has confirmed that its 140-character limit in fact is not going anywhere. In a blog post overnight, the company confirmed that in essence, the 140 character restriction is here to stay. "Unique brevity" will remain one of the defining characteristics of Twitter, which is a good thing. When you only have 140 characters, you have to think more carefully than if you're doing a brain dump on Facebook.

However, there are some major changes planned that will impact how everyone tweets. They all make sense, but they all also open up fresh potential nuisances.

Firstly, you'll now be able to retweet your own messages. This makes it much simpler to resurface a tweet if (for example) you tweet with epigrammatic brilliance at midnight and then realise none of your followers were awake to see it. That's a good thing. But it also means that your feed may fill up repeatedly with the same tweets because @insertrandomnamehere decides that they will not rest until everyone has seen their tweet. That's a bad thing.

Secondly, attachments such as pictures and polls will no longer count towards your 140-character limit. That's a good thing. However, chances are that means soon almost every tweet will have an image attached. That's a bad thing. If I wanted to look at pictures all the time, I'd be on Instagram.

Thirdly, any @reply names in your tweets will no longer count towards the 140-character total. In other words, you won't be forced to use just 20 characters because you're already replying to six people. That's a good thing. But it also means that the potential for spam tagging people on messages is much higher. That's a bad thing.

A related consequence of the reply change is that you'll no longer have to put a full stop in front of a reply if you want everyone on your feed to see it. Everything you type will be visible. I really can't decide if this is a good or bad thing.

None of these changes have happened just yet. Twitter is flagging them in advance so that developers can be ready for the new changes. In typical Twitter fashion, I'd expect that we'll see them rolled out gradually, and they'll hit different users at different times. I also expect many people will tweet and complain if they aren't amongst the first to get those updates. That's neither a good thing or a bad thing; it's just typical of the Twitterati.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

Picture: Shutterstock

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