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Twitter May Remove Links and Photos from 140-Character Limit

Since shortly after Twitter launched in 2006, users of the microblogging site have generally been limited to tweets of no more than 140 characters each. However, the company is reportedly considering a change to eliminate images and links from that limit.

The length restriction on tweets made sense in the pre-smartphone era, when SMS text messages had to abide by similar limits. But today’s much more powerful mobile devices, along with the explosion of information in a wide variety of formats, has caused some users to chafe at being held to 140 characters or fewer. The idea that Twitter may be planning to make a change was first reported yesterday by Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, Twitter was reported to be toying with the idea of increasing its character limit to 10,000, but CEO Jack Dorsey dispelled the rumor in a tweet defending the restriction as “a beautiful constraint” that “inspires creativity and brevity.” However, as a screenshot message rather than text, Dorsey’s tweet itself was much longer than 140 characters.

Shortened Links Still Count

“We don’t comment on rumors or speculation,” a Twitter spokesperson told us via e-mail. The company was not quoted directly in the Bloomberg article. Rather, the story cited an unnamed “person familiar with the matter” who said Twitter would soon eliminate photos and links from its character limit. The change in how Twitter counts characters could occur within the next two weeks, the article stated.

The 140-character limit helped contribute to the development of link-shortening services such as bit.ly and TinyURL. Twitter introduced a service in 2010 that automatically shortened links with a t.co URL, although the shorter link can still use up to 23 characters.

Ongoing Changes Aimed at Growth

Twitter has explored a number of tweaks and new offerings over the years to help boost growth. While the company has 310 million monthly active users, its numbers pale in comparison to a site like Facebook, which reported 1.65 billion monthly active users at the end of March.

In February, Twitter introduced a change that let users choose a new display format for tweets. Rather than viewing updates in the standard reverse chronological order, they can now use an algorithm-driven format that shows more important updates first.

The change is an option only, allowing users to continue viewing tweets in the old format. Many critics of an algorithm-driven timeline said they do not want Twitter to work like Facebook, which uses algorithms to determine the order of posts in users’ News Feeds.

Last month, Twitter also announced a new partnership with the National Football League in which it will globally livestream video from 10 Thursday night NFL games this year.

Image Credit: Twitter HQ exterior photo by Aaron Durand for Twitter Inc.

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