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Twitter CEO responds to questions about character limit changes

Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey recently responded to concerns that a tweak in the microblogging service's interface makes conversations harder to follow, calling the update a work in progress.

As of March 30, Twitter users directing a tweet at another user found that the inclusion of usernames — or the "@" sign followed by a user's Twitter handle did not count against the service's 140 character limit. Twitter said the change, which also exempted attachments of media and photos from the character limit, was intended to give users more room to express their thoughts.

But some users said the exclusion of usernames made it unclear who was part of a conversation, noting it was not always clear a tweet was a reply to another user with the new change.

"Conversation is as much about the metadata (the @ convention) as the content," wrote Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has often written about social media services and the algorithmic features they employ, in a March 30 tweet. "[User interface] needs to bring back clarity to parties to the conversation," she added, saying the new feature also made users unable to switch the order of replies to make those deemed most important visible first.

Dorsey then jumped into the conversation. "Thank you. Still working on this. Wanted to give more characters for replies and put more focus on text. Can't lose visibility of who's in," the CEO wrote in response to Tufekci.

The CEO appeared to suggest the change may not be permanent. "Getting a lot of that feedback. A few steps forward, some back," Dorsey wrote in a March 31 response to New York Times technology writer Farhad Manjoo, who said the use of "@" symbol accompanied by a username made it clearer that a tweet was part of a conversation.