Twitter to Stop Counting Attachments, Usernames in 140-Character Limit

Jack Dorsey - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Jack Dorsey - Getty - H 2016

It's part of CEO Jack Dorsey's plan to simplify the social network.

Twitter is making it easier to say more in 140 characters. 

The social media company announced Tuesday that it will make several changes to what counts toward the 140-character limit in tweets. The move will give users more freedom to tweet longer messages without Twitter eliminating the 140-character restriction, one of the social media network's most iconic features. 

Over the next few months, Twitter will stop counting links to photos, video, GIFs and other media as part of its character limit, which will save users 24 characters. It will also stop counting toward the limit the "@name" function, though only in replying to tweets (when adding @names, the characters still count).

Twitter, which is especially popular with media personalities, celebrities and other online influencers, has struggled over the last year to grow its user base, which was at 310 million monthly active users at the end of March. Its struggles have been attributed, in part, to features that are unique to the platform and can be difficult for new users to learn, for example, using the @ sign to tag a person in a post. These are all features that led tech reviewer Walt Mossberg to call Twitter the "secret-handshake software" because "only insiders know the rituals that unlock its power."  

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has acknowledged that Twitter must simplify its product and its message to attract new users and has made this a top priority since he rejoined the company full-time in October. 

Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland, who joined the company in January, said the changes are designed "to make the experience more intuitive and to make tweeting more expressive."

Twitter is also simplifying some of its other features. Users will now be able to retweet and quote retweet themselves. In a blog post senior product manager Todd Sherman wrote that the feature is for "when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed." 

Further, the company is doing away with the ".@" protocol, which is a way of making sure a tweet that starts with another person's username is seen by all followers. (Not including the period means that only people who follow both users will see the tweet.) Under the changes, tweets that start with a person's username will be public to everyone. 

The changes also encourage people to share more content on Twitter and comes as the company has been investing heavily in video. 

Berland said more changes are on the way, based on user and even non-user feedback, though she wouldn't disclose details.

"One of our key goals is to continue to refine the core service, so absolutely we will see enhancements, but I can't tell you what's around the bend," she said.

Twitter reportedly has considered expanding the tweet limit to 10,000 characters, the same as that for its Direct Messages product. 

Bloomberg first reported last week that Twitter was planning changes to what counts as part of the 140-character limit.