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Twitter’s Change to the 140-Character Limit Is a Distraction From Its Real Problems

Changes to limits on tweets are long overdue. Are they enough?

Twitter is making it easier for users to tweet at one another, share photos and post videos by announcing plans to loosen its 140-character tweet limit. It’s a move long overdue.

No longer will retweets, reply usernames or rich media, such as Gifs and polls, count against tweet limits. Although the company is receiving praise for the decision, many experts are also criticizing that the change should’ve happened months if not years ago.

The social network said this change will roll out “in the coming months” and will allow users to do more with the content they post. It’s a move in the right direction for Twitter, but it’s also indicative of just how far the social network has fallen behind, according to several experts.

While Twitter is boasting about the ability to post more photos without writing less text, Facebook and Google are both heavily investing in virtual reality technology. The two companies are preparing their services for what is widely expected to be the next wave of social sharing content, such as 360-degree photos and videos.

Snapchat, meanwhile, has quietly distinguished itself over the past few months as the leader in user-generated augmented reality content, with numerous features that let users record themselves with computer-generated masks and special effects.

Snapchat “gives us ahead of time what it is we want without us having to ask for it,” said Lizza Monet Morales, a popular personality on Snapchat, Periscope and other social networks. “Twitter has, unfortunately, not done that.”

Making matters worse, Wall Street has taken notice of Twitter’s lack of innovation and resistance to change. Reacting to the character limit news on Tuesday, Twitter’s stock price actually fell more than 2 percent, hitting a new low of $14.03. (By the close of Friday, it had climbed to $15.05.)

“A big part of the problem has been their adherence to the 140-character limit and that is finally being addressed,” said Phil Davis, CEO of PhilStockWorld.com. “Hopefully this is the first of many moves that Twitter will make in modernizing their platform and catching up to competitors.”

Fortunately for shareholders, it seems Twitter is aware of its troubles. In its blog post on Tuesday, the company touted the many ways it has added more forms of rich media in the past year, including integrating Periscope live-stream broadcasts onto the Twitter service.

The company is also keeping its sense of humor, apparently. When reached for comment, the company declined to write a written response, choosing instead to send an animated Gif of a dancing corgi.

For Twitter, changes like Tuesday’s character limit tweak are vital to drawing more users and attracting content creators and marketers. Although Twitter currently touts a user base of 310 million users, content creators and marketers need tools with which they can reach and engage that audience more effectively.

“What is unique and cool about Twitter is also what handcuffs them. A 140-character limit was arbitrarily conceived of and the idea was to make things brief in real time,” said Joe Hyland, chief marketing officer of On24, a video marketing company. “To convey anything unique marketers need real estate, they need space, they need a canvas.”