Twitter announced two changes to its iPhone app Wednesday afternoon, introducing photo tagging and the ability to post up to four photos in one tweet. Both represent the ways in which Twitter is slowly but surely moving beyond the boundaries of its traditional 140 character limit.
Here's what the new photo collage looks like in practice, from Time's Alex Fitzpatrick.
Yes, so many photos. Both the photo collage and tagging features are the next step in the service's effort of "moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background," as Twitter's head of news Vivian Schiller said last week. That "scaffolding" — basically, the cluttered jargon of @ symbols and hashtags and RTs and pic.twitter.coms — is often blamed for slower-than-expected service adoption rates among the less Internet savvy users. By moving that jargon to the background of a tweet, new users won't be as intimated by the service, they reason. And it will allow users the freedom to craft their tweets, and those posting pictures and long URLs can worry less about staying under the character limit.
To be clear, the 140-character limit remains in place, but Twitter's definition of what constitutes a character has changed. Previously, tagging friends in photos posted to Twitter took up a lot of character space. "Here's a pic of me hanging out with @friend1, @friend2, and @friend3! pic.twitter.com/aaaaaaaaaa" for example, would be 92 characters, leaving just a little space to describe the picture. That was particularly vexing for bigger groups of people and made for clunky, ugly-looking tweets. With photo-tagging now in the background, those names no longer need to be in the text space.
Similarly, allowing up to four photos moves other would-be characters to the background. Previously, Twitter users could tweet more than one photo only by pasting several links from Twitpic or other photo services, taking up extra space. (While those pictures sometimes appeared in clients like Tweetdeck, Twitter did not automatically show previews of those photos in the timeline.) The new change not only requires just one photo link, but actually hides the link from view. For example, on the updated Twitter app for iPhone, the above tweet from Fitzpatrick (above) shows the four collaged images without showing the link. In addition, BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel noticed last week that on certain Android test versions of the app, the @-reply was hidden, replaced with a blue drawn line to the original tweet. Goodbye, scaffolding. Hello, clean Internet space.
As Farhad Manjoo wrote all the way back in 2012, the number of Twitter functions that no longer apply to the 140 character limit continues to grow. Photo-tagging and photo collages now join links to news stories that include a preview of the headline, byline, and lede.
In any case, all these changes will just allow people to do more of what they love on Twitter. Things like this: