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Twitter Adds Exceptions to 140-Character Limit

Having conversations on Twitter will become easier as the microblogging site rolls out some changes to how tweets work over the next few months, the company announced today.

The most significant change carves out several new exceptions to what information counts toward Twitter’s long-established 140-character tweet limit. Attachments like photos, GIFs, polls, videos and quote tweets will no longer be included within that limit, nor will the @names that appear at the beginning of replies to another person’s tweets.

Twitter users will soon also be able to retweet their own comments, and will no longer have to use “[email protected]” rather than “@names” to ensure tweets beginning with a username reach all of their followers. Previously, tweets that started with “@names” appeared only in the timelines of people who followed both users.

‘Richer Public Conversations’

Faced with growing pressure to improve its user experience and attract new users, Twitter has been exploring a variety of new features and services in recent years. In February, for instance, the company added an algorithm-driven option that lets users view timeline updates according to importance, rather than see tweets in the standard reverse chronological order.

“These changes will allow for richer public conversations that are easier to follow on Twitter, and ensure people can attach extra elements, media, and content to tweets without sacrificing the characters they have to share their view,” senior director of developer and platform relations Prashant Sridharan wrote today on Twitter’s Developer Blog.

Sridharan added that the company is giving developers advance notice of these changes so they have enough time to adapt their own Twitter-based applications and services to the new format.

“The updates have a significant impact on Tweets, so we want to provide our developer partners with time to make any needed updates to the hundreds of thousands of products built using Twitter’s API,” senior product manager Todd Sherman noted in a separate blog post today.

Mixed Response Ahead of Annual Meeting

By early this afternoon, hundreds of users had posted responses to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s tweet about the coming changes, with comments ranging from thumbs-up emoticons to “not a fan.”

Many expressed concern that retiring the “[email protected]” convention would lead to an overload of replies in people’s timelines and make it harder to have semi-private conversations with just a handful of followers. A number of users also expressed disappointment that the announced changes didn’t add editing capabilities — a long-requested feature — for tweets.

Twitter’s 310 million monthly active users are just a fraction of Facebook’s user base, which was 1.65 billion as of the end of March. However, many Twitter users have expressed vocal opposition to suggestions that the company adopt more Facebook-like strategies to grow its following.

At the same time, investors have been urging the company to make changes that would encourage greater growth. Today’s announcement seems to have been timed with investors in mind, as the company is set to hold its annual meeting of stockholders tomorrow.

Images Credit: Screenshots of characters and logo via Twitter.

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