China’s Weibo follows Twitter in controversial move to ditch 140-character limit, says users can soon waffle on for up to 2,000

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 6:34pm

China’s Weibo plans to follow Twitter and expand its 140-Chinese-character limit on messages to as much as 2,000, it said Wednesday.

During its lunchtime announcement, the nation’s leading Twitter-like microblogging platform, said it will run a trial operation from January 28.

Exactly one month later, it will officially expand this to include all of its 500 million users, it said.

Twitter announced earlier this month that it was considering proposals to expand its character limit on posts - sparking outrage from millions of users.

It is not yet known if or when the proposals will come into effect.

Meanwhile, under Weibo’s new rules, posts will still show only the first 140 characters in the user timeline. To reveal the full message, users will need to click on a dedicated “enter” button.

READ MORE: Twitter’s plan to extend character limit spells disaster for devotees

“According to Weibo’s big data, only about 10 per cent of original posts surpass 120 Chinese characters,” a spokesperson for the company told the South China Morning Post by email.

“But we are extending the text limit to offer greater choice and a better user experience. It will be available to our VIP members from January 28 and the rest of the public from February 28.”

The move comes hot on the heels of a similar plan issued by Twitter, which also loosened its decade-old restriction on the length of messages early this month.

The US site said this was being done to make its service more appealing to a wider audience accustomed to the greater freedom offered by Facebook and other forums.

In China, Weibo competes with other popular social media like Tencent’s WeChat for market share. Whereas Facebook-owned WhatsApp rules the roost across the border in Hong Kong, mainlanders much prefer WeChat, which has a Facebook-like “Moments” feed for sharing photos, text and moving images.

Weibo has amassed 500 million registered users since its launch in 2009. It once served as a popular forum for airing public concerns about various issues relating to the economy, political sphere and social issues.

But this appears to have changed in recent years after the majority of posts deemed politically sensitive by the central government were removed and user accounts cancelled. Such deletions seem to have been made by the microblogging site itself as a form of self-censorship.

WeChat has over 1 billion registered users. It was launched in January 2011.