Twitter’s defining feature is the 140-character limit it imposes on tweets and retweets. It forces a level of succinctness that is sorely lacking from — ahem — unfettered social networks. But it’s also really annoying sometimes, especially when you’re trying to reply to someone — since Twitter’s inception, usernames have counted against the limit. But no longer.
On Thursday, the company announced usernames will no longer count toward the 140-character maximum. The change, which is rolling out to users on iOS, Android, and the web, will see usernames appear above the text of your reply — when you compose a reply, you will see the recipient’s profile picture and Twitter handle highlighted outside of the text box. In threads involving more than one person, you’ll see a username followed by “and 1 other,” “and 2 others,” and so on.
Twitter is also rolling out a new “Replying to” feature that will make excluding users from replies a little easier. When you contribute a new tweet to an ongoing thread, you will see checkboxes next to usernames in the conversation. Excluding them from the reply is as easy as unchecking the box next to their username.
Twitter Product Manager Sasank Reddy said that the initial feedback was promising — “people engage more with conversations on Twitter,” he said — but that there’s work to be done. “We will continue to think about how we can improve conversations and make Twitter easier to use,” Reddy wrote in a blog post.
It’s not the first time Twitter’s excluded items from its long-standing 140-character limit. In August, it bumped the character limit for direct messages from 140 characters to 10,000. September of last year, it made an exception for media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, and more) and quoted tweets.
CEO Jack Dorsey has historically praised the 140-character limit, calling it a “beautiful constraint” that encourages “creativity, brevity, and speed.” But more recently, he has walked those statements back a bit. “This is the most notable change we’ve made in recent times around conversations in particular, and around giving people the full expressiveness of the 140 characters,” Dorsey told The Verge in May. “I’m excited to see even more dialog because of this.”
Twitter’s latest changes have been met with mixed results. In February, negative feedback forced the network to shelve a plan that would have gotten rid of list notifications, the notifications users receive when they are added to a list. A new Explore tab, a curated collection of ongoing and breaking news, was launched to mixed reviews.
They have contributed to an ongoing dilemma: Stalled growth. In the last fiscal quarter, the company added just 2 million monthly users to end the year with 319 million, and in the U.S., the monthly user number was flat. It is the 10th consecutive quarter Twitter’s revenue growth has declined.
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