Twitter’s unique selling point in the crowded world of social media was its 140 character limit. This encouraged tweeters to be creative and concise. However in November 2017 Twitter doubled that limit to 280 characters.
Why? Twitter researchers observed that users struggled to fit thoughts into the 140 limit, spending time editing tweets or abandoning them if they couldn’t manage it. Data from a recent trial led the said researchers to conclude that increasing the character limit would increase engagement. More tweets would be sent and more people would engage with those tweets.
Good idea, or the end of Twitter as we know it? Many people (me included!) agreed with JK Rowling:
Twitter’s destroyed its USP. The whole point, for me, was how inventive people could be within that concise framework. #Twitter280characters
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) 8 November 2017
At first, tweeters had fun with the extra characters, for example, this from the Bodleian Libraries:
— Bodleian Libraries (@bodleianlibs) 9 November 2017
A month or so on, the novelty has worn off and Twitter has settled into a new normal. Hard to say what the long-term effect of the change will be, though we can speculate on whether the limit might be raised again … and again … and at what point the service becomes indistinguishable from other social media sites.
However, the good news is that the new limit is helpful to Special Collections services. There is now plenty of space to credit images and other shared content properly. This will help tackle one of the downsides of social media: sharing of images without acknowledgement of creators and of archives and libraries.
Spot the difference: the same photo shared for #explorearchives in 2015 and 2017.
— SpColls BradfordUni (@100objectsbrad) November 19, 2015
— SpColls BradfordUni (@100objectsbrad) November 22, 2017