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Twitter Reclaims Space for Text in Tweets

Update: As noted below, the changes to how the Twitter character limits are counted are available to third party developers. MacStories has learned that Tweetbot and Twitterrific will both be updated soon to support the changes to Twitter’s APIs.

Tweetbot (pictured in screenshots) and Twitterrific will soon be updated to implement the changes to Twitter's character limits.

Tweetbot (pictured in screenshots) and Twitterrific will soon be updated to implement the changes to Twitter’s character limits.

Twitter began rolling out changes that take back space for text in tweets. As Twitter has gradually become a multimedia experience full of images, GIFs, videos, quoted tweets, and other things, each has encroached on the 140 character limit of a tweet leaving less room for text. That just changed.

With a tweet today, Twitter began to roll out features, first announced earlier this year, that exclude certain things from the 140 character count limit. Users will still be limited to 140-character messages, but, as first reported by The Verge last Friday, media attachments (including images, GIFs, videos, and polls) and quoted tweets will no longer count against the 140-character limit, making more room for text.

Example of a tweet that would violate prior character count rules.

Example of a tweet that would violate prior character count rules.

The changes were first announced by Twitter in a corporate blog post in May along with the ability to retweet and quote tweet yourself, both of which have already been implemented. At the time, Twitter explained that:

the Tweet has evolved from a simple 140-character text message to a rich canvas for creative expression featuring photos, videos, hashtags, Vines, and more.

As those features were introduced and evolved, they have crowded out the text of a tweet. For instance, a quote tweet (which is just a link to another tweet), takes up 24 characters, leaving the sender with only 116 characters to comment on the quoted tweet. That number drops even further if the sender also adds an image.

These new changes to Twitter will be available to third-party developers as part of the Twitter API. As a result, I expect we will see updates to our favorite third-party apps soon. Since the return of Jack Dorsey as CEO of Twitter, the company’s relationship with third-party developers has thawed substantially. Opening new features like the ones introduced today should go a long way towards continuing to build trust with developers of third-party Twitter clients.

I’m looking forward to these changes. I rarely tweet a link and an image in the same tweet. One or the other is doable, but both just shortens the space for text too much. At the same time, it’s smart of Twitter to maintain the 140 character limit, which is at the core of what makes Twitter unique. The changes strike a nice balance between encouraging the use of media and the historical brevity of a tweet.

Note that Twitter tends to roll out features gradually to its users. As a result, it could be anywhere from several hours to several days before the majority of Twitter users are able to send tweets that apply the new character count rules.

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