Counting Characters in Twitter

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Counting Characters in Twitter

Post by Admin on Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:34 am

Q. SMS text messages have a character limit of 160 characters, so why does Twitter allow only 140 characters in a tweet?

A. The technical specification for the Short Message Service (SMS) format limits each message to 160 standard characters — including spaces and punctuation. Messages that run longer than 160 characters are typically split into multiple messages or converted into picture messages. (Sending messages that contain emoji pictographs usually lowers the maximum to 70 characters because of the way they are encoded and the amount of space they use.)

During Twitter’s early years in 2006 and 2007, when its creators were trying to develop a SMS-based dispatch system to let people update groups of followers about their current activities with text messages, they decided to limit Twitter posts to 140 characters. The reason was to create space for the sender’s Twitter username and a colon to precede the post — and still keep the whole thing within the overall SMS 160-character limit.

Twitter predates the modern smartphone era, and even though you can now post pictures, videos and links on Twitter, the service still holds to the 140-character limit for its standard posts and displays your character count as you type. Last summer, however, the company removed that constraint for private Direct Messages sent within its service, although Direct Messages sent via SMS are still subject to the character limit.

It is possible that Twitter could increase the character limit for standard posts in the future, although the enforced brevity has become a hallmark of the service. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive of Twitter, even observed nine years ago that “one could change the world with 140 characters” — a sentiment certain activists, politicians and celebrities seem to have taken to heart.


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