Twitter is doubling the number of characters that can go into a “tweet.” No longer must a user condense the thought so that it can be expressed in 140 characters. Now the tweet can contain 280 characters.
Twitter spokesmen said that one reason for the change is the differences in languages. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese can communicate much more in 140 characters than European languages can. (This is because the Chinese writing system is based not on an alphabet–with individual letters standing for sounds that combine into words–but on ideographs, in which every character stands for a separate word. In Chinese writings, 140 characters would represent 140 different words! Korean and Japanese use a mixed system, in which one character stands for either a word or a syllable.)
At any rate, Germans are happy with the change. The German language can pile compound elements on top of compound elements to form really long words.
In response to Twitter’s announcement, Germany’s justice ministry said that it could now tweet about the beef labeling law, which goes by the name of
The original 140 character limit came from the early limits on text messages. Twitter wanted to carry over the SMS chat functions on computers, which had a 160 character capability, to cell phones. The 140 character limit left room for a user name.
Now those technological limits no longer apply, so Twitter is doubling the permissible size of its messages.
In my opinion, the enforced brevity of a tweet is its major charm. Composing a communication that must be limited to 140 characters required an almost poetic condensation, like composing a haiku.
Illustration from Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons