You may not have noticed yet but Twitter added the ability to view line breaks yesterday. This change clearly hasn’t fully sunk in yet — at least, not to my Twitter stream (which is two-line business as usual this morning). But expect a few inflated tweets to start floating through your feed soon.
Adding the ability to view line breaks is a pretty subtle change on the surface — yet a few hard returns can spread 140 characters an awful long way:
Twitter won’t let you tweet giant blocks of emptiness (I checked). But you should be able to space your tweet text over around 70 lines if you ration it one character per time (and want to be really irritating):
One of the huge advantages (in my view) of Twitter is the brevity of tweets, and the resulting density of Twitter streams. Twitter is now allowing the latter to break up. Which is a pretty big deal, in one sense. But hopefully won’t be as disruptive to Twitter users as it could be — ie if everyone you follow suddenly turned into a five-year-old child.
Why is Twitter adding line breaks? Officially the company hasn’t said much — beyond suggesting it will be “fun”:
It’s possible Twitter is responding to advertisers hoping for more ways to make their promoted tweets stand out — ie by occupying more of your stream. But since anyone can pepper their tweets with extra padding it may not always be such a big differentiator.
Line breaks are supported by the Twitter web client and Twitter’s official apps. But third party clients are likely to need time to catch up. (You can imagine some will tout lack of support as a feature.)
I can see two main Twitters emerging post-line breaks (assuming Twitter doesn’t get cold feet and spike the feature). One version where users interested in using Twitter as an information service carry on tweeting their standard two-lines’ worth of wisdom while gleaning lots of useful knowledge from what is a quasi-RSS feed reader.
And another Twitter, where the kids hang out, swapping song lyrics and tweeting emoji-style graphics at each other — spread out over as many lines as possible like so much digital graffiti.
In other words:
Or MySpace redux.