- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On Tuesday, Twitter made a major announcement via blog post — running 2,465 characters long according to WordCounter.net — that it will soon loosen its 140-character limit somewhat to make it easier for users by changing what counts against the character limit.

“When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count,” the microblogging service explained. The same will be true of media attachments in tweets like “photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets.”

Additionally, perhaps the most confusing and misused convention of the Twittersphere will soon be a thing of the past.

“New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers,” Twitter explained, adding, “(That means you’ll no longer have to use the ‘[email protected]’ convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly.”

Reaction on Twitter was mixed. “I can see the pitfalls of these Twitter … innovations,” user @PageFortyFive noted, “but at least I will never have to explain ‘[email protected]’ again.”

Among the more negative responses was one from @NumbersMuncher Josh Jordan, grousing, “Twitter unveils new changes including allowing up to 50 names in a tweet and all followers seeing every tweet reply.” He included with his tweet a GIF taken from “Family Guy” showing a woman lighting herself on fire.

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In January, Twitter floated the possibility that it would expand its character-limit for tweets from 140 to 10,000 characters. The idea was quickly scuttled after howls of protest from Twitter enthusiasts, although the expanded limit was put into place for messages sent privately between users.

When it was launched in March 2006, Twitter lacked any “way to send a reply or retweet someone. And it certainly didn’t have hashtags,” Quartz.com observed back in October 2013. “Those peculiar conventions, which make Twitter both irresistible and confounding today, were invented by its users.”

That organic user-created subculture can be off-putting to newcomers, so over time Twitter has tweaked its service to broaden its appeal. Perhaps its most cosmetic change was its most recent when in November 2015 Twitter changed it’s star-icon “favorite” button to a heart-shaped “like,” a move which annoyed some longtime users who complained #imissthestar.

“We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers,” the company blog explained, reasoning, “You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”

Other changes which were also initially greeted with skepticism have long since become second nature to Twitter users.

In November 2009, the company instituted a retweet button, saving readers the need to copy and paste another user’s comments. In June 2014, Twitter coders opened up the service to hosting animated GIFs within a user’s tweets. In April 2015, the retweet function was reworked to allow a user to “retweet with comments,” a move which freed up more characters for commentary or criticism while giving readers the full content of the original tweet.

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