The 280-character spike

The 280-character spike

Twitter's length distribution has shifted in response to the increased limit

Back when tweets were capped at 140 characters, I observed that a disproportionate number of them barely fit within the character limit. Since then, Twitter has expanded the maximum tweet length to 280 characters, so how has this changed the distribution of tweet lengths?

The distribution of tweet lengths in a 2019 dataset

A sample of tweets gathered in 2019 [1] still exhibit a telltale spike approaching the character limit, but it is smaller than it was a decade earlier. The peak of the curve has also shifted leftwards, to 15 characters, due to a separate change in 2016 that excluded media attachments and certain at-mentions from the character count.

The most interesting feature of the above graph is unfortunately an artifact of the dataset — the massive spike at 105 characters can be blamed on a spambot network broadcasting identical copies of the same tweet when the dataset was collected.


  1. Twitter stream 2019-05. Internet Archive. (2019-10-27). ↩︎