Chat away: Twitter removes 140-character limit for direct messages

The social network now allows users to chat privately without feeling constrained by a space limit. Blabbermouths, however, will get cut off at 10,000 characters.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read

Twitter users can now privately chat with each other without feeling so tongue-tied.

The social network announced Wednesday it has removed the 140-character limit on its popular direct message feature, which allows users to communicate privately with each other.

The change raises the limit on Twitter's direct messages from 140 to 10,000 characters. By comparison, Facebook's Messenger has a character limit of 20,000.

As the competition intensifies from the likes of Facebook and other popular message apps including WhatsApp, Twitter is apparently trying to keep pace.

"Our users will now have the flexibility to write longer and express themselves in a more natural and comfortable way," said Sachin Agarwal, Twitter's product manager for direct messages.

The upgrade, which was originally announced in June, could help the struggling social network reach a wider, mainstream audience to appease Wall Street investors. Despite Twitter having about 316 million monthly active users, it pales compares to the 1.5 billion who use Facebook, which puts it at major disadvantage as it attempts to attract advertisers and more money.

The direct message expansion takes shape as Twitter is trying to make the site more engaging and easier to use, something that its top execs openly admitted late last month it has struggled to do. It's betting high that other features including the much-anticipated Project Lightning, will lure in new users as well as a new content deal with the National Football League. Project Lightning will highlight trending events by running a series of photos, videos and other tweets.

The company is also in the midst of looking for a new leader. Interim CEO Jack Dorsey, who replaced Dick Costolo last month, said he won't leave his full-time role as chief of Square, the mobile-payments company he founded after Twitter that's reportedly getting ready for an IPO. On Monday, Dorsey said he bought more than 31,000 shares of Twitter, worth about $875,000, sending a strong signal to investors he believes in the company's future.

Meanwhile, Twitter's board has said a new CEO would have to fully commit to the position. The list of people being considered for the job includes Adam Bain, who's currently Twitter's head of global revenue.

Agarwal said Twitter is investing a lot in direct messaging. Earlier this year, the company launched group direct messages, where multiple users could chat at once, and then later let any user message someone else privately. Previously, two people needed to follow each other to have a private conversation.

While while tweets sent out publicly will not change, the elimination of the 140-character limit for direct messages is a big step toward making the private side of Twitter more powerful, Agarwal added.

"There's a lot of events unfolding, and a human tendency to want to share that in the world and that's where direct messaging comes in," he said. "This is another great opportunity to spark the conversation."