Twitter expands to 280 characters – sort of.

November 13, 2017

Topics: WordPress.

In WP to Twitter version 3.3.1, I’m adding a control to extend the allowed length of your Tweets using WP to Twitter. This post is to explain that feature, because as much as there’s been a lot published claiming that Twitter has expanded posts to 280 characters, that’s not strictly accurate.

Strictly accurate matters a lot in programming, even if your actual experience using Twitter might seem exactly right. As a result, it’s going to be a little while before WP to Twitter gives you exactly the experience you might expect.

What has Twitter done?

Apparently, they’ve shifted to a weighted counting configuration based on unicode point ranges. If that makes clear sense to you, congratulations! You probably already know what’s going on and can stop reading now.

However, if you’re like the rest of us humans, it’s not entirely crystal clear.

Twitter no longer has a maximum number of characters where all characters are equal to one unit in the count. Some characters have greater weight in counting. While the weighted allowed length for your Tweet is 280 characters, the actual number of characters may not be.

Twitter has a library for use in counting characters, but it has not yet been updated, so it’s not available for use yet. Additionally, it doesn’t have a PHP module, so I’d need to use the JavaScript implementation to do the character counting. Implementing this will require some significant changes to WP to Twitter which will require some time. I can get started on them now, but until the Twitter Text code is updated, there’s no way I can finish it.

The character weighting is crucial because the character limit is tied to the characters you actually use in your Tweet, *not* to some arbitrary setting in your account. Mixed language Tweets, in particular, are impossible for me to predict right now.

What have I done?

I have no way of knowing how many characters you are able to use in a Tweet. Everybody can use at least 140; the highest density languages still have 140 characters available.

I’ve left the default value at 140, but added a setting where you can change your limit in the admin. You are free to use 280; and for languages not using CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) alphabets, you will probably be mostly able to take advantage of all of your available characters.

But you might need to tweak that value, and I don’t currently know what usage might cause that.

For most of you, this probably won’t be a problem. However, as I know that I have a significant installation base in Japan, I can’t just globally change the allowed values without causing big problems.

In general, the exact parameters of how I assess the number of characters that can be sent in a specific Tweet seems to be a bit murky, so at this time I can’t commit to a final solution.

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