More space for that Justice League review! Twitter’s new 280-character limit rolling out to everyone

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Nov 8, 2017

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out new parameters for its more than 300 million users. Instead of 140 characters, users can now share their thoughts on everything from, say, the Justice League reshoots to Star Wars: The Last Jedi Porg goodness in 280 characters.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, Twitter had given “a small group” access to the full 280 characters. Here’s what Twitter learned from the experience, according to product manager Aliza Rosen:

During the first few days of the test many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behavior normalized (more on this below). We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often. But importantly, people Tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained.

We have to pick apart the word “normalized” — that is, what is normal. Because Twitter users for the last 11 years have been habituated to the 140-character limit, lengthier posts may not seem quite right to current users, at least not yet. But as new Twitter users join the platform (say, youngsters getting their own accounts), they may naturally expand the word count. The idea that Twitter users will automatically keep to 140 characters, when they have a full 280 characters to play with, defeats Twitter’s own purpose of increasing the character length in the first place.

Prior to this, Tweeters have been getting around the character limit by posting attachments of lengthier writing.

Note that Twitter is increasing the character limit for most, but not all, languages. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean writers will keep their 140-character limit. In her blog post, Rosen wrote that “these languages have always been able to say more with their Tweets because of the density of their writing systems.”

So far, users have had mixed reactions:

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And as Fortune points out, this news does not address other problems that users have had with Twitter, such as online harassment.

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Famously, Leslie Jones, the star of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, quit Twitter after being subjected to racial cyberbullying. And let's not forget the GamerGate scandal.

Twitter’s brevity is most of its appeal, but the doubled character count will force us to read, and actually think about, what users are saying. It has the potential to increase how many thoughts we share — for better or worse.

But since it gives us more space to share our love of Game of Thrones, we consider that a win.