The 140-character limit of an individual tweet isn't going away, but what constitutes a character in a tweet is changing. On Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced a series of changes that will roll out across the micro-blogging service.
Here's what no longer counts against the 140-character limit for an individual tweet:
Another Twitter user's name, if it leads off a tweet. Under the current system, replying directly to someone via Twitter means factoring their username into your reply. For example, in my tweet below:
@geoffduncan This is where I begin to openly pine for 1994, when I hand-coded HTML files on a Unix filesystem using vi.— Lisa Schmeiser (@lschmeiser) May 23, 2016
Twelve characters go toward replying to my friend. Under the current system, this tweet is 119 characters. Under the new system, my tweet would be 107 characters long. And it would likely not include @geoffduncan at all -- Twitter is changing how replies are displayed. According to the Twitter graphic below, Twitter's going to eliminate the handle from the tweet itself and indicate who you're replaying to in tiny text above the tweet.
Photos, GIFs and videos: Again, the file names pointing to these currently count against your tweet limit. So under the current system, this tweet of mine has 116 characters:
Why Stephen Chow should have been brought in to make Dr. Strange: An Argument in 94 Seconds: https://t.co/khn5W3mW0P— Lisa Schmeiser (@lschmeiser) May 10, 2016
And under the new character-limit rules, it will only have 92 characters. In other words, Twitter is hosting your media for free. For example, this tweet:
Has 124 characters in it right now, 23 of them taken up by the pointer to the hosted image (pic.twitter.com/E2LXQDYdA4). Under the new rules, this tweet will have only 101 characters. (Yes, this means the URLs you post in your tweets still count against the 140 character limit.)
In addition, users will be able to retweet their older tweets. The idea is to let people replay their greatest hits -- or maybe make a statement like "nothing has changed" by resurfacing an evergreen sentiment. So when the bots rise up and tell us all how to work, I'll just keep re-tweeting this complaint:
A tool is useful to me only if I can control and customize the terms of interaction. I’m not going to love a robot that wrecks my flow.— Lisa Schmeiser (@lschmeiser) April 12, 2016
Twitter is adding a retweet button to users' own tweets, so you can RT yourself as many times as you'd like. I'm intrigued by the challenge of finding old tweets to resurface and retweet -- will Twitter echo Facebook and start offering flashbacks to older Tweets so you don't have to go into your own archives? Or will there be an app that does that for you? We'll see how Twitter users decide to handle the new capabilities.