The Internet Doesn't Need—or Want—Longer Tweets

According to Twitter’s well-worn origin story, the 140-character limit for tweets was born out of the now bygone restrictions of text messaging. The founders wanted Twitter to be used via SMS; at the time, messages were capped at 160 characters. (The extra 20 accommodated user names.) A few years after the company’s founding in 2006, text message limits had disappeared, but Twitter’s restriction remained. It became a cultural institution. People like working within its constrictions; it’s almost an art form for some. But today, Twitter announced that it’s toying with the idea of upping the character count to 280. And just like that, Twitter became that annoying jackass on Twitter who screenshots something from the Notes app to try to get more words in edgewise.

The news provoked an immediate reaction, not much of it good. #280characters became a popular hashtag; users bemoaned what would happen if President Trump had even more runway; even Jack Dorsey’s biggie-sized tweet announcing the news got worked over. In general, the news did not go over well. (Though, some cheered the idea that a few more characters might curtail the #thread.)

But is this actually bad? It’s just Twitter, right? Sure, but here’s the thing. While all social media services change—Instagram gets new filters, Facebook integrates bizarre emoji reactions—Twitter isn’t just trying out a new feature; the company is basically altering one of the last pure, long-standing rules of online culture. Granted, Twitter has tested the boundaries of the character limit for a while now, but it never fully broke them. Millions of users have condensed their witticisms to 140 characters or less for over a decade now; removing that one constant just feels wrong.

Twitter has been under a lot of scrutiny lately—for not handling harassment very well, for not letting users edit tweets, for providing trolls with a platform and playground. It deserves most of those criticisms, but they stem from things Twitter didn’t do, issues the service hasn’t responded to quickly enough. For the expanding-character-limit initiative, the critiques focused squarely on something Twitter did that it didn’t have to. They focused on Twitter screwing up the one thing it’s always done right.

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How to turn off Twitter’s algorithmic feed and see tweets in chronological order

More than a month after it first rolled out as an opt-in program, Twitter’s algorithmic timeline is now supposed to be live for all, as recently reported by Marketing Land. What this means is that some tweets will appear in your timeline out of chronological order.

This is not like Facebook’s algorithmic approach, however, where the social network only shows you content it believes you’re more likely to find engaging. The live tweet stream based on people you follow is still there. It’s just that the first thing you see will be this new summary of “the best tweets first.” The new timeline tweak is mostly a beefier ”while you were away” feature that Twitter introduced in 2015.

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Twitter confirms it’s experimenting with native polls in tweets

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Twitter is looking at possibly letting users add quick polls to their tweets. A company spokesperson confirmed the move in a statement to VentureBeat saying, “We’re experimenting with a new way to poll users on Twitter.”

Right now, it looks like polls are only visible on Twitter’s mobile apps and website, but not on desktop applications like TweetDeck. There’s no indication of whether this capability will be rolled out to the rest of the 316 million monthly active users, as it’s an experiment that could wind up being shelved.

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This isn’t the first time that Twitter has rolled out polls on its communications service. Previously, companies were able to poll their followers through custom card polls. In 2014, Twitter revealed that it was testing out a feature that would enable native ads for publishers. Today’s sightings may hint that these could be rolled out to a wider audience.

From what we’ve seen, all polls have a 24-hour time limit on them.

While Twitter declined to provide more information, a quick query on the site showed that at least Twitter employees and also some verified profiles, including those in the media and in sports, have access to embed these polls.

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