The arrival of 4,000 characters, revolution or chaos?
Remember Here we are in 2017, Twitter decided to double the size of posts. No more 140 characters – in reference to the maximum length of an SMS –, hello 280 characters. Internet users are lost and crying foul (well, yes, we’re exaggerating a bit). Five years later, the drama was quickly forgotten and no one stood against this change. But discontent quickly returned. In a brief response to a user, new Twitter boss Elon Musk confirmed that he would increase the size of posts to 4,000 characters, roughly the size of an article by 20 minutes.
After the paid certification, the mass deletion and reduction of moderation, this new function could be “an additional nail in the coffin of Twitter”, estimates Stéphanie Laporte, founder of the Otta agency and director of the program at digital communication at Inseec. And for good reason, by significantly lengthening the length of tweets, the multi-billionaire could “damage the spirit of Twitter”, warned the specialist.
Towards a multitasking network?
Because the spirit of this microblogging strengthened the success of the blue bird. “Twitter is an exercise in conciseness and synthesis. In one or two lines, we have information,” explains Stéphanie Laporte. And for those who want to decipher slightly longer topics, there are still popular threads today, particularly used by scientists during the coronavirus epidemic. “Today, some threads are several thousand characters, it is true, but they are rare, this is not the main function of Twitter,” he added.
According to the specialist, the new boss of Twitter wants to change the platform to “a meta social network, a multitasking platform” where the published content is longer. Facebook’s twin in a way. “But if you want to build a point, there is LinkedIn, Facebook or even blogs. Twitter, on the other hand, should remain a summary space where you can quickly find out about information,” warns Stéphanie Laporte . Because this multitasking aspect caused the decline of Facebook, according to him: “On the contrary, Instagram was damaged because the application was reduced to its sole use of sharing photos and videos, which did not drown in the ocean of possibility “.
The risk for Twitter is losing some of its users. First, the new generation, “hostile to extended content”, according to the expert, but also its historical audience, attached to the spirit of conciseness. “If we see a wall of text coming, it could have a negative impact on both generations,” continues Stéphanie Laporte. Especially since this feature can also disrupt the way users “scroll”: “It is not compatible with a mobile format, the text will take up the entire screen. Inevitably, there will be less maintenance of the user,” he continued.
While the feature hasn’t gone live yet, Twitter designer Andrea Conway has shared her first mockups, giving a preview of what posts might look like. Posts will display the first 280 characters – the current limit – and then a “see more” button to view the full text.
Another danger is moderation. Being a major concern since the arrival of Elon Musk, it could still get worse with this new feature. “Now that there are fewer employees and that we will increase the length of twenty tweets, the amount of moderation will be monstrous”, worries Stéphanie Laporte.
And with moderation issues there are fears of misinformation. Due to 4,000 characters, some users may post slightly repetitive articles or fake news. Others may put sensationalist information at the beginning – in the first 280 characters – to “finally offer weak content in long texts”, fears the specialist. “This could be misleading and harm the quality of the content,” he added.
However, the idea of Elon Musk does not come from nothing, which meets the needs of some of the users. While browsing Twitter, it’s not uncommon to see a tweet accompanied by a screenshot of a note, like Kylian Mbappé below.
Unlike threads, which are used by experts – scientists, doctors, journalists – more public figures use this subterfuge. A site also exists to post messages beyond 280 characters: TwitLonger. Here, with 4,872 characters, this article looks like a Twitter 2.0 post.