Twitter is different now. Here’s what you need to know.

Twitter has made some changes to the 140 character limit, effectively stretching it out and letting you get more bang for your buck, if you know how to use the new rules. Specifically, they have changed the structure to exclude “prefix” and “suffix” data.

In plain language, this means that attachment URLs for photos, videos, GIFs, and polls no longer count towards a tweet’s total. They are considered part of the “suffix”.

This is not true for URLs that link to external websites, however. The explanation is simple: Twitter wants to keep you on Twitter, instead of sending you away with a link. This most likely means that in-stream visual content will increase (more photos, videos, and infographics).

Regarding the “prefix,” tweets that begin with “@name” will be public to all followers, instead of to only the recipient and your mutual connections. No more “.@name” needed! Twitter is also allowing users to quote their own tweets, to share conversations more economically (in terms of characters).

Here’s an image to illustrate:

new twitter 140 character rules


For medical purposes, the downside of all this is that linking to external sites, as we often do to share journal articles or copyrighted material, is effectively discouraged by the new structure. You can still do it, and I think you should. The ability to direct people to original sources via links is one of the features that has kept the medical community on Twitter, rather than, say, Instagram or Facebook. We aren’t showing as many photos, but we are sharing a lot of information.

On balance, are these changes positive or negative? Time will tell. Let me know your thoughts!

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