Twitter’s expansion to 280 characters is rolling out publicly today to all users in supported languages, including English. The company had first announced the controversial plan to move beyond its traditional 140 characters back in September, noting at the time how a longer character count allowed users to express more of their thoughts without running out of room to tweet.
The expansion was initially available to a select group of Twitter users as a trial.
At the time of its original announcement, the company cited data backing up its decision that referenced how the character constraints impacted users differently, depending on their language.
Twitter said that those who tweeted in languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese were able to express around double the amount of information in a single character, compared with users who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese or French, for example.
Because of this, Twitter decided the expansion to 280 characters would only roll out to those languages affected by “cramming” – meaning everything but Japanese, Chinese and Korean – during the test period.
The #280 Controversy
The decision was met with a fair amount of controversy, given that one of Twitter’s defining characteristics is the brevity of users’ posts.
Many argued that the increase to 280 characters would make Twitter less readable, as longer tweets filled their timelines.
Others suggested that Twitter’s focus on a feature no one really asked for was diverting its attention from more critical problems – like the rampant abuse, harassment and bullying it’s become known for unfortunately.
However, the media – a group of largely power users lamenting the loss of an information-dense timeline – may not represent Twitter’s larger user base, some of whom have been begging for the feature since September.
In addition, one poll from last month found more Americans were in favor of the expansion than opposed to it, and the majority had no opinion.
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