Twitter is testing a new feature that allows users to share “notes” of up to 2,500 words. Social media platforms usually limit posts to 280 characters.
Twitter said the move responded to people posting pictures of lengthy announcements and using the platform to direct followers to outside newspapers. The trial will last two months and involve a small group of authors in Canada, Ghana, the UK and the US.
The new feature aims to put viewers into the Twitter eco-system, where readers can click a link to view a headline and access a longer note.
The company announced using the new Notes product, saying, “Since the company’s earliest days, writers have relied on Twitter to share their work, get attention, read, interact — everything but the actual writing. “
“The goal is to fill in that missing piece with notes.” The move follows Twitter’s purchase of Dutch newsletter start-up Revue last year.
On Wednesday, it said it is folding Review into the new Notes product, allowing authors to embed GIFs, photos and other features into long-form essays that can be read on and off Twitter.
Social media expert Dr Laura Toogood said the trial was a significant step for Twitter. She said the feature would encourage people to stay within the platform rather than linking to other websites that can host long-form content.
“Adding this extra capability means that Twitter is now in a position to compete with some of the popular blogging platforms and potentially attract a new audience and a different type of user,” she told.
“It will also encourage existing users to blog within Twitter, rather than move to other websites for this purpose, which will help retain their audience.”
In 2017 Twitter increased the maximum number of characters for tweets from 140 to 280, following a trial among a small group of users. The latest move comes amid scrutiny of Twitter’s business prospects, as Elon Musk’s planned takeover of the company raises questions about its direction.
The firm announced in April it was working on an edit button shortly after Mr Musk – who had called for such a feature – revealed he had bought a significant stake in the company. Twitter said the events were unrelated.
Mr Musk has also said he sees potential in a subscription model in which people would pay to use the platform.
Dr Nikki Usher, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said it was hard to know whether Twitter was trying new formats out of profitability or genuinely wanted to improve the platform.
“In this case, one of the things we do know is that people do not like to read long texts online,” they said.
“So whether giving people 2,500 characters to work with will ultimately make a difference in the quality of the digital public sphere – well, I think it’s unlikely. Is it a chance to grab headlines in advance of some major changes at the company? Absolutely.”