Thanks I Hate It: Twitter Starts Testing Out 4,000 Character Tweets

Thanks I Hate It: Twitter Starts Testing Out 4,000 Character Tweets

If you’ve ever been scrolling through Twitter and thought to yourself, ‘I wish all of these posts were SO MUCH longer,” then today is your lucky day. If, however, you are a reasonably well-adjusted internet-user, I unfortunately come bearing bad news. Twitter appears to be officially experimenting with 4,000 character tweets.

Worse still: The ability to clog up feeds with 500+ word posts seems to be currently limited to a test group of paying Twitter Blue subscribers.

The new post format, which allows for tweets more than 14x longer than the current 280-character limit, isn’t necessarily a surprise. Elon Musk has been hinting at plans to increase the tweet character limit to 4,000 for months now. In response to a December 2022 tweet from @AllanObare4 asking, “Elon is it true that Twitter is set to increase the characters from 280 to 4000?,” the billionaire simply responded, “Yes.”

But still, the change is an unsettling unravelling of Twitter’s whole micro-blogging…thing. What distinguishes Twitter from Tumblr, Reddit, and everywhere else on the internet if not the merciful brevity? Who would possibly want to read 4,000-character long hot takes from Twitter influencers? Why can’t we just keep all of our excess words to ourselves? These are questions I could presumably ask Twitter’s PR department, if it still existed.

What do long tweets look like?

4,000 character tweets, or long tweets, began showing up in Twitter feeds sometime at the end of January. For example, this masterpiece from @testanonytwit.

(Note: long tweets look different on Twitter’s actual website than they do embedded in the Gizmodo content management system. To get the full experience, you’ll have to view the post on Twitter.)

And since then, more users have begun demonstrating the feature in…creative ways. Jane Manchun Wong, a software engineer, managed to post every single available emoji in one go.

Wong told Gizmodo she stumbled upon the ability to long tweet while messing around with some of Twitter’s unreleased features — available to her through her Twitter Blue subscription — on Tuesday. Since first beginning her explorations into the 4,000 character limit, Wong noted she’s also managed to bypass it. In a follow-up to the emoji tweet, the engineer posted a tweet with nearly 27,000 characters (mostly made up of “……”).

That hyper-long tweet might be a bug — or maybe it’s a feature. In Musk’s new Twitter-verse, maybe the sky is truly the limit on post-length. It’s hard to know, because, again, Twitter dissolved its PR department shortly after the billionaire’s takeover and the company has since become a black box. Gizmodo has no obvious way of contacting Twitter and getting clarity on what may or may not be the new character limit.

Regardless, it’s clear that Twitter is testing out longer tweets among its paying users. Even prior to this recent emergence of long tweets, other experiments were underway.

Back in November 2022, the platform began rolling out a “Notes” feature, allowing a small test group to publish long-form, unlimited, multimedia posts directly on Twitter. With those “Notes,” posts are contained to short previews that look similar to external article links when they appear in the feed. To read a Note, users have to click the embedded post link and navigate to a different page. Once there, the whole thing is formatted more like a Medium blog post than a tweet, with the writer’s bio at the bottom and no retweet/like ticker.

But the new 4,000-character tweets follow a much more classic Twitter-esque format. In the feed, long tweets appear as a clipped preview. Each one can be expanded within the platform’s feed with a single click of the “show more” button. From there, the monster tweets reveal their true form — blowing up to take over your whole screen. As with a standard, short tweet, responses follow.

A preview of how long tweets look in practice.  (Gif: Twitter)
A preview of how long tweets look in practice. (Gif: Twitter)

Why aren’t I seeing 4,000+ character tweets?

If your timeline still appears to lack long tweets, don’t get too excited. It’s probably not because your feed is somehow immune. More likely, it’s because there aren’t that many long tweets in total. Very few Twitter users have actually opted to pay for the Blue subscription. Only about .2% of the platform’s monthly active users (fewer than 200,000 people) had signed up by mid-January, according to leaked documents.

Despite its many add-ons and promised benefits, Twitter Blue has proven profoundly unpopular. And, among Twitter Blue users, long tweets don’t seem to be catching on too quickly. If there’s a lesson to be learned here at all, maybe it’s: ‘just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.’

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