Since the dawn of time – namely, July 2006, when Twitter first opened its doors to an unsuspecting public – tweets have been fixed to a limit of 140 characters. This is a ceiling that you are simply not allowed to break (unless, of course, you’re one of those people). The limit is widely seen as a good thing – it ensures that tweets are instantly consumable and easy to share, and, ultimately, that forced brevity encourages all of us to become better writers.
If you share a lot of links on Twitter, you’ll know that any URL included in a tweet is automatically converted into a smaller link using Twitter’s internal t.co shortener. This was a safety measure introduced by Twitter in 2011 to allow them to better control malicious links, which had been an issue in the past.
Much like links shortened by bit.ly, t.co crunches longer URLs down to a manageable 20 characters. This means that when you share a link on Twitter, you need to allow for the 20 characters that t.co needs, plus any space you want to leave for organic retweets, and so on.
From February, you’re going to have to leave at least another two characters of extra room, as t.co is expanding to a 22 character minimum.
And if you’re sharing a https:// link, t.co is going to need to borrow one more.
This news was announced on the Twitter Developers blog yesterday, and will go into force on February 20th, 2013.
We’d like to share some upcoming changes to our t.co link wrapper with the ecosystem. We’re going to be extending the maximum length of t.co wrapped links from 20 to 22 characters for non-https URLs, and 21 to 23 characters for https URLs.
To give everyone enough time to update their applications, this change won’t go into effect for two months – so please consider this a heads up.
Most people won’t notice much of a difference, but if you’ve become accustomed to writing the copy part of your tweets to a specific length to account for the URL (shortened or otherwise), you’re going to have to remember to leave an extra couple of characters come February of next year.