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Twitter Said to Be Considering Changes to the 140-Character Limit

May 16, 2016, 7:43 PM UTC
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A Twitter Inc. tweet regarding the company ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Twitter Inc. surged 85 percent in its trading debut, as investors paid a premium for its promises of fast growth. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Twitter is planning to make changes to its 140-character limit, a restriction the service has had since its inception in 2006, according to a report from Bloomberg. Sources told the financial wire service that Twitter is expected to announce sometime in the next two weeks that photos and links included in tweets will not count towards the 140-character limit.

Links currently take up 23 characters of the total 140 available, and it doesn’t matter how short the links are because Twitter “wraps” every link with its own auto-shortened URL. Twitter says it does this so that it can cut down on malicious links and also track how many times people click on them. Photos also take up 23 characters worth of the 140 limit.

The Bloomberg report is just the latest in a series of rumors about Twitter expanding its character limit that have swirled around the company over the past six months or so. In January, for example, the news site Recode said Twitter was planning to expand the number of available characters for a tweet to 10,000 in an attempt to appeal to new users.

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In March, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said that the 140-character limit was not going away.

“It’s staying. It’s a good constraint for us, and it allows for of-the-moment brevity,” Dorsey said. But at the same time, Dorsey’s comments (posted as a screenshot) seemed to leave the door open for a feature that would allow people to post longer chunks of text but still only show 140 characters in the Twitter timeline.

Twitter users have already found a number of ways around the 140-character limit, including posting screenshots of text. Media companies are also given the ability to implement “expanded tweets” or Twitter “cards,” which allow them to include links that automatically expand within the Twitter stream to show an excerpt from the story and an image or video.

The 140-character limit was designed in the early days of Twitter because Dorsey expected most people to send tweets using the SMS text-messaging function on their phones, and many carriers at the time restricted text messages to 160 characters. Twitter declined to comment on the Bloomberg report.