Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:17 PM ET
Twitter users will soon find they have less room than usual to spell out how they're feeling and include a link, as a slight tweak to the social network's link-shortening service reduces the number of characters you can use to as few as 117.
It's a small change, but every character counts in the hyper-condensed messages Twitter is used for. So why the change?
Tweets are limited to 140 characters to begin with, which allowed them originally to be sent within the 160-character limit for texts (the remaining 20 characters were used for system purposes). You can still use all 140 if you're just writing text, but if you like to add links to your tweets, that'll cost you two extra characters.
Twitter's built-in link-shortener, t.co, currently uses 20 characters per link (for example, "http://t.co/pGYmGHu7"), or 21 with https:// links. But they're lengthening it to a maximum of 22 or 23 characters, meaning if you're pasting a link in your tweet, you'll have just 117 left to work with.
Why do they need more space? It's not clear. The original 8-character sequence in t.co links has trillions of combinations of letters and numbers, meaning they can't be running out. NBC News contacted Twitter for an explanation of the character cut, and we will update this post if the company responds.
The update appears to have already gone out, so users should notice the change immediately. Developers were warned of the update back in December, so apps and services should continue to work as normal.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.