A tweet displayed on an iPhone.
Photograph by Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Kia Kokalitcheva
May 24, 2016

If you were hoping for Twitter to stop counting web links as part of its 140-character limit, you’ll have to keep waiting.

The microblogging service announced Tuesday that it’s planning a few changes to how it counts tweet characters, but web links are not part of the initial plans. And on top of that, those changes won’t be available immediately, as Twitter (TWTR) is still mulling around exactly when and how it will roll them out, and will first let outside developers play with them before users.

But in the meantime, the company shared some details about how it envisions these changes to work.

First up are replies, in the format of “@name,” which are used to respond to another account’s tweet by including its handle, Twitter’s term for a user’s account name. Eventually, those characters will no longer count toward the 140-character limit, says the company. But there’s a caveat: This will only apply to tweets that are a direct response to another tweet.

On the topic of replies, Twitter also plans to do away with the “.@” convention that users have turned to when they want to respond to another’s tweet but also want to make it visible to all their followers. Until now, without the period, only the other user, plus their mutual followers, would see the tweet.

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Attached media items will also eventually no longer count toward each tweet’s character limit. Currently, attaching a photo, GIF, or poll automatically adds 24 characters to a tweet. But someday soon that will no longer be the case—those 24 characters will be all yours again!

Lastly, Twitter is planning to finally adding the retweet button to users’ own tweets “so you can easily Retweet or Quote Tweet yourself when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed,” as Twitter senior product manager Todd Sherman wrote in a blog post.

Again, it would be much better if Twitter finally stopped counting web links as part of a tweet’s 140 characters as they’re often the most challenging to fit in there, but we’re not there yet. The company is likely holding off until it can figure out how to allow that without unleashing more spam on its service—can you imagine a tweet with 10 links?

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These upcoming changes also are not the free-for-all the company was once rumored to be working on. Twitter was allegedly exploring ways to increase its character limit to a jaw-dropping 10,000 characters, according to media reports in January, mostly likely by letting users expand tweets to display the additional text. However, co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey shut down the rumors a couple of months later.

“It’s staying. It’s a good constraint for us and it allows for of-the-moment brevity,” he said on NBC’s Today Show at the time.

Twitter’s apprehension to make such a drastic change likely comes from the delicate balance it’s had to strike when it comes to updating its product. For several quarters, the company’s user growth was flat, much to the displeasure of Wall Street, putting pressure on Twitter to refresh its product to make it appeal to more new users. At the same time, it has a vocal minority of longtime users who like the product just the way it is. So far Twitter has made some changes, including the controversial “algorithm-based filtering” of users’ feeds, and despite some backlash, the company recently revealed that only 2% of users have turned off the feature.

But as for now, users can know that someday soon, they’ll have at least a little bit more space in their tweets. But just a little.

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