Twitter: The 411 on the 140

Some intriguing new changes are coming to Twitter.

One hundred forty characters is Twitter’s shtick. Say much by saying little — that’s the culture. Ironically, Twitter’s mission is this:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”twitter

I’ve done plenty of creating and sharing on Twitter since I began managing the Colorado State platform when I started my position during September 2014. At the time, our account had posted approximately 24,972 tweets. As of this moment, we’re sitting at 36,825 which means I’ve crafted almost 12,000 tweets. And through those tweets I did, at times, encounter barriers. Attaching an image to a tweet drops the limit from 140 down to 116 remaining characters. And a URL? That’ll be 23 big ones, sir. Barriers.

But the cool thing about language is that it evolves — even when the delivery mechanism doesn’t. Acronyms like ICYMI weave their way into everyday Twitter dialogue to express the notion “in case you missed it” while saving 16 characters in the process. Whatever becomes w/e, tomorrow is tmrw, and and is always &. (If my copy editing professor reads this, I’m sorry. It feels dirty, but barriers.) It’s hard to express your voice as an authentic character when you’re limited by characters.

The good news is that change is on the horizon, and we’re getting more room to breathe. More room to express.

Less Barriers

Twitter announced that the upcoming 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.”

Replies: @names that auto-populate at the start of a reply Tweet will not count towards the character limit (but new non-reply Tweets starting with a @mention will count, as will @mentions added explicitly by the user in the body of the Tweet). Additionally, new Tweets that begin with a username will no longer have to use the ”.@” convention in order to have those Tweets reach all of their followers.

This is wonderful news. In the past, replying to a user with a name like @ColoradoStateU meant you had to say less than if you were replying to an account with a shorter username like @CSU. But be sure to note that adding extra usernames after the initial username will still count toward the limit.

For those times when it makes sense to begin a tweet with a username, we no longer need to use the “.@” convention, which was the most convenient way to send a tweet to your entire audience instead of only that specific user (a period just happened to be the most inconspicuous character and organically became a part of Twitter culture). And this change doesn’t mean that every tweet will now be visible to your entire audience. When replying to a tweet, your message will still only go to that individual and your mutual friends. With that said, I’m curious about the times when I want to initiate a conversation with a user and not have the tweet go to my entire audience. Will I have to reply to one of their tweets, despite it not being relevant to the context of my tweet? I’ll have to do some experimenting once the changes roll out.

Media attachments: A URL at the end of Tweets generated from attaching photos, a video, GIF, poll, Quote Tweet, or DM deep link will also not count towards the character limit (URLs typed or pasted inside the Tweet will be counted towards the character limit as they do today).

So URLs will still count but media won’t. I’ll take that! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve relied heavily upon photos and animated GIFs to convey a more complete narrative than I was able to solely in 140 characters. Oh, the things I could have said in the past two years with 24 more characters in each of the 12,000 tweets — that’s 288,000 characters, to be exact.

More Dynamic DMs

Slidin’ into the DMs just got better, too.

This move makes direct messaging a lot more fluid with typing indicators and read receipts.


Some people aren’t happy.

Some people did us all a solid.


– Images, videos, GIFs, quote tweets, and polls will soon no longer count toward the 140-character limit.

– Creating a new tweet that begins with “@username” will be public content.

– Direct messaging is now more interactive.

– Keep an eye out for these changes coming soon. If you have questions, feel free to tweet us at @ColoradoStateU or check with @TwitterDev.