How Twitter’s New Features and Changes Actually Work

Written by Laura Roeder

On May 31, 2016

You might have heard the recent news that Twitter is changing the way it counts characters in your tweets – and you might also have been kind of confused by it.

(Don’t feel bad – even The New York Times had a hard time deciphering the announcement.)

Twitter’s announcement that it’s giving users new ways to squeeze more stuff into their tweets should be exciting, but it also left a lot of people scratching their heads and dreading the new changes.

We figured we should break it down.

Want a quick, no-nonsense look at what’s changing? Here’s everything you need to know:

You have more characters to work with

Historically, when you’ve replied to someone’s tweet, the username (like @MeetEdgar) that appears at the beginning of your reply counts against your 140 characters.

The available number characters for this @-reply drops from 140 to 131 to accommodate the username at the beginning.

The available number characters for this @-reply drops from 140 to 131 to accommodate the username at the beginning.

That’s not going to happen anymore.

Now whenever you reply to someone’s tweet, their username will still be at the beginning – but it won’t count against your 140 characters. Perfect for replying to people with super long usernames! (Not that there’s anything wrong with those. You do you, long-username-having people.)

This is also where a lot of confusion came from – so here’s the full explanation.

The announcement on Twitter’s official blog wasn’t necessarily as clear as it could have been, but their explanation for developers sets the record straight:

The ONLY time that usernames don’t count against your 140 characters is when they show up automatically as part of a reply.

If you write a new, non-reply tweet that starts with someone’s username, that username counts against your 140 characters. If you mention a user in the body of a tweet, that username counts against your 140 characters, too! The only time it won’t count is if you click the reply button.

(So don’t worry – nobody can compose a new tweet and just add infinite usernames to it. That would be a spam-pocalypse sort of situation.)

Spam

The changes don’t stop there, either – Twitter’s also going to stop counting media attachments against your 140-character limit.

Until now, media attachments like photos, polls, Quote tweets (like this), and GIFs have counted against your character limit – now you’ll be able to add media to a tweet and still have 140 characters to work with!

(So go on – add hilarious GIFs to your heart’s content. And to your Twitter content! Ah, homophone humor.)

Anyway, there are more changes coming that actually don’t have anything to do with the 140-character limit – changes like:

Self-retweeting

Know what else Twitter’s allowing you to do that you couldn’t before?

Treat Yo Self

Close – now you can tweet yo self!

(Or more accurately, retweet yo self.)

Since basically always, you’ve been able to retweet other users, but not yourself. Any of your own tweets would have the “retweet” button grayed out and unclickable, like so:

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 3.59.45 PM

Other people could retweet this message we shared – but we didn’t have the option.

Now, though, Twitter’s giving you the power to retweet yourself. You can even quote one of your own tweets, so you can add to and elaborate on something you already tweeted!

Before you get caught up imagining all the tweets you can tweet, though, there’s one more big change that Twitter announced:

You can quit doing that thing with the period

You know – that thing, with the period!

Traditionally, when you compose a new tweet that starts with someone’s username, the only way it will show up in a follower’s timeline is if they follow both you and the person whose name you mention.

But what if you want to post a tweet that everyone in your audience will see just like normal, while starting that tweet with someone’s username?

The most common workaround has always been the period thing – dropping a period in front of the person’s username, like in the example above. It enables you to write a tweet that starts with a username while ensuring that it shows up in everyone’s timeline just like a normal tweet.

You don’t have to do that anymore!

Now when you write a new tweet, you can start it with a username and it’ll still show up in your followers’ timelines like any other tweet would – no period-based workaround required.

Here’s the thing that’s easy to miss, though: this only works with new tweets, not replies. If you want a reply to show up in all of your followers’ timelines, you’ll have to retweet it – good thing you can retweet yourself now!

So get ready

These changes are coming to Twitter soon – according to the network, “over the coming months.” Keep your eyes peeled for when they go into effect, so you can tinker with your tweets accordingly!

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