Twitter accessibility - image descriptions

Twitter adds 420-character image descriptions to improve accessibility

Twitter has started rolling out a change to its Android and iOS apps that will permit users to add descriptions to any photos they post. The update is designed to make the platform more accessible, although it has prompted discussion around the 140-character limit that is applied to tweets.

Image descriptions can be accessed by visually impaired tweeters who use assistive technology, for example.

Although the change is centred around accessibility, is has seen discussion about allowing longer tweets resurface. For some time, there has been considerable speculation within the industry that Twitter may increase its 140-character limit.

Earlier this month Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey denied that the company might drop the 140-character limit. But as Engadget pointed out, Dorsey also once denied that timelines would be reordered, only days before announcing a new algorithmic timeline.

Why might Twitter remove the 140-character limit?

For some, the idea of Twitter dropping its 140-character limit seems far-fetched. After all, the restriction is a defining feature of the whole platform.

But the reasons why Twitter might allow longer posts are simple: the company wants existing users to be more active, as well as seeking growth through new accounts.

Whilst some believe that ending the 140-character limit could give Twitter the boost it desires, doing so would not be without risk.

The world of Tumblr and Medium

There are already social platforms that do not place restrictions on the number of characters permitted in a post. And it is the concise nature of tweets that attracted many people to Twitter in the first place.

Relaxing the character limit may therefore not be a simple, no-cost method of promoting engagement and growth. Users could decide that other platforms do a better job when it comes to slightly more in-depth content, and there is a possibility of a user revolt if Twitter moved away from one of its defining characteristics.