Technology and Science

Twitter finally flicks the switch on 10,000 character DMs

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Feel free to bombard your friends with effectively unlimited direct messages now as the social network enables a longer unbroken service

Twitter users can now send direct messages (DM) of up to 10,000 characters, three months after the company announced the forthcoming change to users and developers on its development blog.

The new DMs, which are intended to be of effectively unlimited length for the typical user, are part of the company’s long-running effort to upgrade its messaging service to make it a more competitive alternative to market leaders such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger apps.

Sachin Agarwal, Twitter’s DM product manager, said: “We believe that private messaging is a core part of the twitter experience. Where we see our advantage [over apps such as WhatsApp] is that there’s so much amazing content on Twitter already, that we want to enable people to have private conversations about those things.”

After years spent all-but-abandoned, the company turned its attention to updating its direct messages towards the end of 2014, first enabling group DMs with multiple participants, and then announcing the change in DM length earlier this year. As a result, Agarwal accepted that Twitter still has to win back trust from users before they will devote time to the feature.

Nonetheless, he said: “We’ve won back a lot of trust, but we still have a long way to go. Users are really excited about it, we’re seeing our numbers skyrocket.”

Unusually for Twitter, the change in DM length was pre-announced. Agarwal said that it was important to make sure that all third-party clients are updated before the feature is turned on. “What we didn’t want was for it to be enabled for one client but not for others,” because that way users may be sent messages that they couldn’t read.

Typically, Twitter is unconcerned about third-party clients, preferring users to stick to the company’s own software, but Agarwal said that a big target for unlimited DMs is business users, who will appreciate being able to hold real conversations with customers in DM. Since enterprise users are often on third party clients such as Hootsuite, they need the time to switch over.

“One of the really interesting uses of DM is talking to business and getting customer support, and those are using third party clients. We have a number of partners that build clients for these businesses and so we wanted to make sure they had the time to update and be ready.

“Let’s say that I’m talking to a business and I write them a direct message that is 160 characters long and that business doesn’t read the last 20, for me as a consumers thats a really bad experience. And that was how we looked at it, the users’ perspective, making sure they have a really great experience.”

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