The idea of limiting messages to 140 characters may have made sense back when SMS dominated mobile media, but a lot has changed since then, as Twitter acknowledged with this week’s move to relax character limits for certain types of content, including pictures and video. The announcement comes as the microblogging platform seeks to reinvent itself as a multimedia destination for live events.
Per the new rules governing tweet length, Twitter users can post multimedia content including video and photos, as well as polls, gifs, and quoted tweets, without using up any of their allotted 140 characters. Previously, each additional item or feature was counted as 23 characters, or around a sixth of the total tweet limit, which presented some obvious challenges for users when it came to both sharing content and providing their own opinion or context; basically the more multimedia content you posted, the less space you had to talk about it.
Previously Twitter users who wanted to, say, express a nuanced view about a sensitive subject, would have to post a screenshot image of a longer message; another alternative was to post multiple tweets in a row, replying to themselves, in what became known as “tweetstorms” (which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says are here to stay).
The new rules fall quite a bit short of some earlier speculation, including suggestions that Twitter might increase the total character limit to 10,000, matching its previous expansion for direct messages.
The most recent changes reflect the growing importance of multimedia content, and online video in particular, on social media platforms, feeding fierce competition between Twitter and rivals including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, among others.
Earlier this month, for example, YouTube unveiled a new Community tab, which resembles a Facebook-style news feed for video producers, giving video producers and viewers the ability to communicate through formats including text, images, videos and animated GIFs. It allows fans to see all the posts from video creators they’re following on YouTube grouped together in the “Subscription” feed, and they can also choose to receive alerts whenever a creator posts a new video. The timeline feature displays content from their various subscriptions in chronological order.
Also this summer, Facebook revealed it is spending $50 million to get around 140 companies and celebs to use Facebook Live, the social network’s streaming video service.