Snapchat, Twit­ter try re­vamps

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - TECH SUNDAY -

Strug­gling so­cial-me­dia dar­lings Twit­ter and Snapchat are tak­ing on new looks as the ser­vices seek wider au­di­ences in the shadow of Face­book.

Twit­ter has rolled out a 280-char­ac­ter limit for nearly all its users, aban­don­ing its iconic 140-char­ac­ter limit for tweets. And Snapchat, long pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, will un­dergo a re­vamp in hopes of be­com­ing eas­ier to use for ev­ery­one else.

Both ser­vices are look­ing for ways to ex­pand be­yond their slow-grow­ing fan bases.

Twit­ter has said that 9 per­cent of tweets writ­ten in English hit the 140-char­ac­ter limit. Peo­ple ended up spend­ing more time edit­ing tweets or didn’t send them out at all. By re­mov­ing that hur­dle, Twit­ter is hop­ing peo­ple will tweet more, draw­ing more users in.

This past week, Ger­many’s jus­tice min­istry wrote that it can now tweet about leg­is­la­tion con­cern­ing the trans­fer of over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for beef la­bel­ing.

The law is known in Ger­man as the Rindf lei sch etik et­tie rung sue berw ac hun gs auf gabe nu e bert ra gun gsg es etz (64 char­ac­ters ).

Mu­nich po­lice, mean­while, said that “at last” they won’t need ab­bre­vi­a­tions to tweet about ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing fork­lift driv­ers, or Nie der flu rfo er der fa hrzeug­fue hr er (32 char­ac­ters).

In Rome, stu­dent Ma­rina Verdic­chio said the change “will give us the pos­si­bil­ity to ex­press our­selves in a to­tally dif­fer­ent way and to avoid can­cel­ing im­por­tant words when we use Twit­ter.”

Oth­ers were not im­pressed, in­clud­ing at least one who quoted Shake­speare: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

And, as Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel noted, change does not come with­out risk.

“We don’t yet know how the be­hav­ior of our com­mu­nity will change when they be­gin to use our up­dated ap­pli­ca­tion,” he said. “We’re will­ing to take that risk for what we be­lieve are sub­stan­tial long-term ben­e­fits to our busi­ness.”

Snap, Snapchat’s par­ent com­pany, did not pro­vide de­tails on the up­com­ing changes.

Dur­ing the third quar­ter,

Twit­ter av­er­aged 330 mil­lion monthly users, up just 1 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous quar­ter. Snapchat added 4.5 mil­lion daily users in the quar­ter to 178 mil­lion, which amounts to a 3 per­cent growth. The com­pany does not re­port monthly user fig­ures.

Those num­bers pale next to so­cial me­dia be­he­moth Face­book, which re­ported that its monthly users rose 16 per­cent to 2.07 bil­lion.

“The one thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand or hard to use, and our team has been work­ing on re­spond­ing to this feed­back,” Spiegel said. “As a re­sult, we are cur­rently re­design­ing our ap­pli­ca­tion to make it eas­ier to use.”

His com­ments came on a con­fer­ence call with in­dus­try an­a­lysts af­ter the com­pany posted the lack­lus­ter user-growth num­bers and rev­enue that fell well short of Wall Street ex­pec­ta­tions. Snap’s stock was blud­geoned Wed­nes­day, fall­ing 16 per­cent to $12.70 in early morn­ing trad­ing. The Venice, Cal­i­for­nia, com­pany went pub­lic in March at $17 a share.

Snapchat needs to grow its user base be­yond 13 to 34 year olds in the U.S., France the U.K. and Aus­tralia, Spiegel said. This, he said, in­cludes An­droid users, peo­ple older than 34 and what he called “rest of world” mar­kets.

Mean­while, Snap said Wed­nes­day that Chi­nese in­ter­net com­pany Ten­cent has ac­quired a 10 per­cent stake in the com­pany. Ten­cent runs the WeChat mes­sag­ing app, as well as on­line pay­ment plat­forms and games. Ear­lier this year, Ten­cent bought a 5 per­cent stake in Tesla Inc.

As for Twit­ter, the move to 280 char­ac­ters was first started as a test in Septem­ber.

“Peo­ple in the ex­per­i­ment told us that a higher char­ac­ter limit made them feel more sat­is­fied with how they ex­pressed them­selves on Twit­ter, their abil­ity to find good con­tent, and Twit­ter over­all,” project man­ager Al­iza Rosen wrote in a blog post .

The ex­pan­sion to 280-char­ac­ter tweets will be ex­tended to all users ex­cept those tweet­ing in Chi­nese, Ja­panese and Korean, who will still have the orig­i­nal limit. That’s be­cause writ­ing in those lan­guages uses fewer char­ac­ters.

The com­pany has been slowly eas­ing re­stric­tions to let peo­ple cram more char­ac­ters into a tweet. It stopped count­ing polls, pho­tos, videos and other things to­ward the limit. Even be­fore it did so, users found creative ways to get around the limit. This in­cludes multi-part tweets and screen­shots of blocks of text.

Twit­ter’s char­ac­ter limit was cre­ated so that tweets could fit into a sin­gle text mes­sage, back when many peo­ple were us­ing texts to re­ceive tweets. But now, most peo­ple use Twit­ter through its mo­bile app; the 140-char­ac­ter limit is no longer a tech­ni­cal con­straint but nos­tal­gia.

DREAMSTIME

Dur­ing the third quar­ter, Snapchat added 4.5 mil­lion daily users, which amounts to a 3 per­cent growth.

BRYAN THOMAS / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dur­ing the third quar­ter, Twit­ter av­er­aged 330 mil­lion monthly users, up just 1 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous quar­ter.

MATT ROURKE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Twit­ter has rolled out a 280-char­ac­ter limit for nearly all its users, aban­don­ing its iconic 140-char­ac­ter limit for tweets.

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