Twitter takes another swipe at easing 140 character limit

Jack Dorsey: Twitter shows best and worst of democracy
Jack Dorsey: Twitter shows best and worst of democracy

Next time you get into a Twitter argument, you'll have more space for insults. But you might be confused as to who exactly you're yelling at.

Starting Thursday, Twitter handles in replies will no longer count toward the 140 character limit on tweets.

To make that happen, the handles -- a person's Twitter name preceded by the @ sign -- are actually being removed from reply tweets altogether. When you reply to people, the handle will be displayed above the tweet in small text. You must click to see the names of any additional people included in the conversation. Usernames in original, non-reply tweets still count toward the character limit.

The new design is very similar to one that Twitter tested on select users last fall. However, instead of showing a person's full name, the final version sticks to their @username.

That experiment was not warmly received by everyone, with many complaining it made it hard to add or drop people in a conversation. Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom said in a Medium post that it made it more difficult for her to combat harassment on the service. So why did Twitter stick with the design?

Related: Twitter lifts its 140 character limit -- sort of

"In our tests of this new experience, we found that people engage more with conversations on Twitter," said product manager Sasank Reddy in a blog post announcing the change.

Now the company is rolling it out to all of its 319 million active users (up to 48 million of whom might not care because they're bots, according to a recent study). It will show up on as well as in the iOS and Android apps.

Twitter started maximizing tweet space in September, when it decreed that quoted tweets and attached media would not count toward the 140 character cap.

The company Is rigid about sticking with the same 140 character limit it has had for the past 10 years. CEO Jack Dorsey has called it "a beautiful constraint." It is going out of its way to keep that constraint no matter what.

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