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Twitter @Replies Are No Longer Counted in Your 140 Characters - Here's How it Works

It’s taken 10 months to arrive, but the exclusion of @names from your 140 character count on Twitter is finally here. And the new process could take some getting used to.

As you can see from the video, the new process now puts the handles of the users you’re replying to in a new field above the message, making it more akin to e-mail.

Twitter @Replies Are No Longer Counted in Your 140 Characters - Here's How it Works | Social Media TodayThe idea behind this is to make Twitter easier to understand – or, as CEO Jack Dorsey puts it:

But there are some problems with this.

For one – and as noted by Twitter – not all third party tools have been able to incorporate the change as yet, which means there are some situations like this.

Now, that’s also a symptom of people trying to push the limits – you can add up to 50 user names to your reply field which won’t appear in the tweet, something you could never have done before. Because of this, users are trying to break the system, but it’s probably rare that you’d ever actually need to add 50 people to a single tweet reply. But then again, that what’s the function is designed to cater for – as third party apps update their Twitter API parameters, this problem should resolve itself over time.

But then there’s the issue of how tweet replies now look, and the confusion over who you’re replying to.

For example, this tweet has the maximum number of recipients included, but at first glance, it’s not clearly evident who, or how many people, exactly you’re replying to.

Twitter @Replies Are No Longer Counted in Your 140 Characters - Here's How it Works | Social Media TodayIt can also make tweets a little more confusing, as the direct thread of your reply is no longer connected in the tweet stream.

In this example, the user is replying to @anildash, but it seems less tidy, less contained that just including the @name within the original tweet.

Twitter @Replies Are No Longer Counted in Your 140 Characters - Here's How it Works | Social Media TodayThese are mostly habitual misunderstandings – as noted, it’ll take some getting used to – but it’s not definitively clear that this update improves or simplifies the process.

Also, the new update doesn’t fix the traditional “.@” problem.

Another ongoing issue Twitter noted that they would resolve with these updates is the need for users to include a full-stop before an @ name at the beginning of a tweet if they wanted all of their followers to see it. That’s still the case, and because the reply handles are now not included in the actual tweet when you reply, you're not able to inset the full stop if you want all your followers to see that response.

Rather than offer a solution on this, Twitter’s Support team have offered what’s essentially another workaround to achieve the same effect.

And then there’s also the ‘inception tweet’ – when you reply to yourself, then retweet yourself, you end up with triple coverage of your @name.

Twitter @Replies Are No Longer Counted in Your 140 Characters - Here's How it Works | Social Media TodayAgain, more a difference in presentation than anything – and I wouldn’t imagine there’s a lot of people re-tweeting their own replies on a regular basis – but again, it seems more confusing, or messy, than the previous design.

Needless to say, regular Twitter users are none too pleased with the result.

But as noted by Sarah Tavel on her experiences in helping to grow Pinterest, you can’t always be building features with power users in mind.

“Once you reach a certain point and have built a sticky product, you have to stop building for the users you already have, and start building for that next hundred million users. You have to be willing to risk angering your existing users in order to win the next big group.”

And this is where Twitter is looking. Yes, some power users are going to be upset and they’re going to make some noise, but it’s the incoming, new users they need to work for.

The question is, does this change help new people coming in?

Definitely, excluding @names from the character count provides more room to tweet, and that’s a bonus – the removal of media attachments from the 140 characters has been largely a positive move.

But the revised reply structure – maybe not so much.

Some have already offered their thoughts and suggestions on how Twitter could resolve this.

(As an aside, I’m not sure any CEO in history has ever had access to more people offering more advice on how to run their company than Jack Dorsey)

Providing more room to tweet makes sense, as does not going over the 140 character limit – as that’s a key part of what Twitter is.

On top of this, there is some case there to extend tweets beyond 140 – the rising prevalence of people including text in screenshots, for example, could be an impetus to add more room for data within the tweet itself.

It might be better, however, for both Twitter and the platform's users, if they were to include an additional WordPad-style option which enables them to create a text screen attachment like this. Twitter would obviously like to be able to utilize that additional data, but there are ways they could create a writing addition which they could scan and add to their data banks.

Basically, there are ways Twitter could add in new options like this without wholesale changes to tweet structure, which may be what they’ve done this time around. But then again, Twitter’s initial tests showed that people engaged more with conversations on the platform under this new system.

Maybe, as a regular user, my perspective is also jaded and this actually will prove to be an enhancement for new users coming in. 

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