Twitter for the first time is expanding beyond its 140-character limit, the company announced on Tuesday. The social network says it will now try out a longer limit of 280 characters in select languages, including English, in order to allow people to share their expanded thoughts without running out of room to tweet.
The feature will initially be made available to a small group of users for the time being, as the expansion is considered more of a test than a large, public rollout for now.
The company says that it came to the decision to expand the character count because it realized the character count limitation more heavily impacted those tweeting in some languages — like English, Spanish, Portuguese or French — as compared with others, like Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
As the company explains via a blog post, the latter group could convey about double the amount of information in one character, compared with the former. Twitter then studied what that meant, in terms of tweet length in various regions, and found that only 0.4 percent of tweets in Japanese have 140 characters, but a larger (9) percent of English tweets did.
It also found that most Japanese tweets are 15 characters on average, compared with 34 characters for most English-language tweets.
Because of this, the new, 280-character limit will only roll out to those languages affected by “cramming,” which Twitter says is all languages except Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
The change is a notable move for the social network, whose users for years have been debating the merits of an expanded character count.
While some have argued that doing so would make Twitter feel less restrictive and more likely to encourage longer conversations, others have said that Twitter’s focus on brevity is its biggest differentiator, and, in fact, the very essence of its service.