‘Still 140 characters’: Twitter CEO quashes rumor of longer tweets

Twitter’s much-loved 140-character limit is “staying.”

That’s what Jack Dorsey, one of the company’s founders and its newly-reinstated CEO said in an appearance on the Today show on Friday.

Rumors in January about Twitter switching from a 140-character limit to a 10,000-character limit were met with overwhelming derision from users who felt the platform’s built-in brevity is its soul.

However, Dorsey told presenters Carson Daly and Matt Lauer that 140 characters was “a good constraint for us.”

“It allows for of-the-moment brevity,” he added.

This is a difficult time for the company, which is struggling to monetize the service in the way that larger social networks or tech companies like Facebook and Google have been able to do, as well as grow its user base, which has hit an apparent ceiling at 300m.

Its stock price has been in a precipitous decline for more than a year. In March 2015 Twitter stocks were trading at over $50 per share; today they are worth just $16.83 per share. When the 10,000 characters-rumor surfaced, the company’s share price dropped 2% overnight.

In giving this assurance, Dorsey hopes to calm his user base, many of whom have been in near-open revolt against the company for a variety of what have often been perceived as poorly-judged and heavy-handed changes.

Dorsey was reinstated as acting CEO of Twitter in October 2015, following Dick Costolo’s resignation, and became permanent chief executive of the company in October. Since then, he has been the focus of ire for many users for his attempts to, as users see it, fix a service that isn’t broken.

In November, Twitter suddenly replaced the star-shaped “fav” button with a heart-shaped “like” button, a move many users saw as spectacularly out of touch with the way the platform is used.

Especially in the context of reacting to bad news such as police violence or school shootings, users felt uncomfortable using the emotionally-positive heart as compared to the emotionally-neutral star.

Nor is this the first time Dorsey has had to publicly disavow widely-believed rumors among his user base – gossip travels fast on Twitter. In January, users were then dismayed to hear that Twitter was planning to change to an algorithmic, rather than a chronological, order.

Again, Twitter’s stock price took a hit. Dorsey tweeted out a denial that timelines were going to change:

— Jack (@jack)
February 6, 2016

Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we’re always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.

— Jack (@jack)
February 6, 2016

I *love* real-time. We love the live stream. It’s us. And we’re going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!

In the end, an algorithmic “show me the best tweets first” feature was indeed added – but as a separate optional extra, not as a change to the basic timeline.

A spokesperson for Twitter said that the company had no official comment beyond Dorsey’s words. Asked on Friday if anything was changing with the app, Dorsey said, “We’re changing a lot. We’re always going to make Twitter better.”

“But still 140 characters?” Lauer asked.

“140 characters,” Dorsey answered.

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