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Twitter overhaul? Your tweets could soon be 10,000 characters long

Tweets are known for their brevity, and at 140 characters or less, they are designed to be quick, sharp snippets of text. But soon, fans of the hugely popular social media platform might see messages get longer -- much longer, expanding to a potential 10,000-character length.

The news was first reported by Re/code, which said Twitter is targeting a launch date toward the end of the first quarter of this year for the product that would let users tweet much longer messages, according to multiple sources familiar with the company's plans. The same sources referenced 10,000 characters as a potential new length limit, which is currently the maximum number of characters allowed in a Twitter Direct Message. The project is being referred to as "Beyond 140."

"Well, I think this definitely represents a company that's moving away from its core principles a little bit here," Mashable senior business reporter Seth Fiegerman told CBS News. "But that said, they are hacking this a little bit. Presumably, from what the reports say, you still would only see the first 140 characters when you're scrolling through your feed, but then you would click to expand it and see all of this other text."

Of course, getting around the platform's original strict length restriction is nothing new. Fiegerman noted that people have long been using third-party tools like TwitLonger as well as posting screenshots of text to quote passages from other places. He said that it is unknown whether allowing longer tweets would cause "a sea change" in how people use Twitter.

"You know, I think the bet here is that they have gotten all of the users who like the way Twitter already is," he added. "They've gotten 300 million users, respectable by any standard but what Twitter wants to have."

On Tuesday, the rumors over this proposed change sent users, well, a-twitter, with many complaints that Twitter might be swerving too far afield from what differentiated it from competing platforms like Facebook.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted out a screenshot of a message that addressed some user concerns.

"At its core, Twitter is public messaging. A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly," he wrote. "We didn't start Twitter with a 140 character restriction. We added that early on to fit into a single SMS message (160 characters)."

Dorsey continued on to call the limit "a beautiful constraint" that "inspires creativity and brevity." He said that providing users with searchable text instead of content that uses are taking screen shots of from elsewhere could have "more utility and power."

What will this do for Twitter, which has been going through something of an identity crisis as other competing social media options have emerged? Fiegerman suggested that for investors looking at the company, time will soon tell.

"I think what will spook Twitter investors is if they do all of this and they don't budge growth at all," he said. "That's what we'll see in the next six months to a year."

  • Brian Mastroianni On Twitter»

    Brian Mastroianni covers science and technology for CBSNews.com