Last week, for the first time, Twitter opened up its tight control of tweets, by redefining what will be included in a message's 140-character count. The changes, which are expected to be rolled out in the coming months, include:
When replying to a tweet, tagged @names at the beginning of the reply no longer will be included in the character count. Photos, GIFs, videos, polls and quote tweets also will no longer will be counted against the character limit.
Tweets that begin with a username will be delivered to all followers of that user. Previously, a period had to be inserted before the username, otherwise the tweet would be seen only by the followers of the writer of the tweet and any other usernames in the tweet. Users will also be able to retweet and quote tweet themselves.
While the proposed changes are not likely to cause a tweet among most Twitter users, self-retweeting may irk some of them. "People are so self-obsessed that it could become a form of spam that clogs up people's timelines," noted one user. "It's one more platform for narcissism."
A good thing about the changes is that Twitter, which had held firm too long on a very stringent format, has realized that it needs to rethink the experience users have with its service. Twitter has been in the digital doghouse for some time for failing to attract new users to its fold at rates comparable to competitors such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. The number of monthly active Twitter users worldwide rose only 2.6 percent from the first quarter of 2015 to the same period in 2016, from 302 million to 310 million.