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02 June 2016

Twitter changes will make life easier for users

 
Twitter has long been defined by its 140-character Tweet limit, forcing users to be concise and creative in their copy. Now this looks set to change, as the social network has revealed plans to increase what you can include in a Tweet. But before you limber up to write and tweet a novel, check out our quick guide to the changes.
 
In a post on 24 May, Twitter product manager Todd Sherman said Twitter can “already do a lot in a Tweet, but we want you to be able to do even more.” He referred to the evolution of the Tweet over the last 10 years from a 140-character text message to “a rich canvas for creative expression featuring photos, videos, hashtags, Vines, and more.”
 
It’s true that in recent months the network has added poll functionality to Tweets, as well as the ability to view Periscope broadcasts. This next round of changes is designed to give users more room for expression and, it seems, allow Tweets to reach a wider audience. 
 
Here are the key changes announced in this week’s post, which will be rolled out over the coming months: 
  • Replies: When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. This will make having conversations on Twitter easier and more straightforward, no more penny-pinching your words to ensure they reach the whole group.
  • Media attachments: When you add attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, that media will no longer count as characters within your Tweet. More room for words!
  • Retweet and Quote Tweet yourself: The Retweet button will be enabled on your own Tweets, so you can easily Retweet or Quote Tweet yourself when you want to share a new reflection or feel a really good one went unnoticed.
  • Goodbye, .@: The rules around Tweets that start with a username will be simplified. New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you’ll no longer have to use the ”.@” 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.
So why are these changes being made? 
 
To attract users back to the platform? Certainly they'll improve functionality for existing users.
 
Or, at a time when revenues are up but user numbers remain static at 320 million, is Twitter switching its focus from user growth to profitability by enhancing functionality?
 
The social network has had a turbulent few months, with user numbers reaching a plateau (or falling, depending which measures you use) and a share price slump. Market leader Facebook has five times as many users as Twitter (1.6 billion) and is reportedly worth up 50 times as much in market value.
 
Will these and other planned changes be enough to sustain Twitter in the longer term? In its annual results, Twitter revealed its priorities for 2016 as being “refinement of our core service; live streaming video; our creators and influencers; safety; and developers”. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to satisfy both users and shareholders.
 
Fans of the platform say that while it’s not without its faults, Twitter has built a niche containing some of the world’s most influential people. It also enables users to follow anyone in the world, which Facebook doesn’t, making it the ideal platform for celebrities, politicians and sports people. Indeed, most political junkies tend to be joined at the hip with their Twitter feed. 
 
And growing advertising revenues saw turnover increase by 48% in the three months to the end of December last year compared with the same period the previous year.
 
Perhaps Twitter has decided that, rather than striving for world domination, striving to create a profitable business with 320 million customers is enough? Time will tell.
 
Source: WHAM's IPRTeam colleagues at The Partners Group, UK

- Trevor Walton


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