New dawn for tweeting but the same old welcome for England down under
James Milton explores the open spaces of Twitter's new playing field
The internet has swiftly established itself as the dominant institution in 21st-century society yet it retains an edgy, untameable ability to shock.
This week, for example, my girlfriend yelled at me in a panicked tone: “I think I’ve stumbled on to the dark web.”
Fortunately, as a grizzled old navigator of the murky backwaters of the internet, I was able to reassure her that she had merely opened a new ‘Incognito’ window on the highly respectable Google Chrome browser.
Following that piece of micro tech news came the macro bombshell that Twitter has expanded – nay, doubled! – the capacity of a single tweet from 140 characters to 280.
This announcement was met with widespread scepticism. Some questioned the wisdom of giving people with nothing to say – or, indeed, something unbelievably nasty to say – twice as much space in which to say it.
But the football world, no stranger to spectacularly extravagant gestures, largely welcomed Twitter’s more expansive playing field.
European powerhouses Milan (@acmilan) took the opportunity to thank Twitter because “now we can finally write in one tweet all the trophies we’ve won!”
Yeah, and you also signed Fabio Borini on loan from Sunderland in the summer, so jog on lads.
Celtic (@celticfc) tweeted their record-equalling 62-match unbeaten run in a format – “Win Win Win Win Win Win Draw Win . . .” – that was arguably more exciting than actually watching Scottish football.
For other clubs, the shattering of the 140-character ceiling was a triumphant validation of their identity.
As Borussia Monchengladbach (@borussia_en) declared: “Our club name can finally be expressed in all its glory” (it’s Borussia Verein fur Leibesubungen 1900 Monchengladbach e.V, for any supporters planning to get a new tattoo).
Twitter’s product manager Aliza Rosen said trials of the 280-character tweets found that, once the initial excitement wore off, brevity was soon restored to the throne of the micro-blogging kingdom.
"People in the test got very excited about the extra space in the beginning and many tweets went way beyond 140,” Rosen explained.
“We expect to see some of this novelty effect spike again with this week's launch and expect it to resume to normal behaviour soon after."
Normal behaviour on Twitter? I told you the internet still has the capacity to shock.
One of the great pleasures of the web is being able to explore newspapers from all around the world.
I'd love to claim I use this unparalleled resource to enjoy nuanced analysis of America's foreign policy in The New York Times, or the latest scandalous happenings on the Paris art scene, courtesy of Le Figaro.
Instead, I've mostly been reading Australian tabloids badmouthing England's Ashes squad, writing off the Poms' chances before a juicy half-volley has been delivered, a middle stump demolished, or a simple catch fluffed.
The Aussies are clearly still smarting from the Irish dominance of the Melbourne Cup so they're even more keen than usual to send these latest sporting raiders back to the northern hemisphere with their tails between their legs.
"Junior O'Brien not your average Joe," conceded a headline in Melbourne's Herald Sun after Rekindling's Cup victory last weekend.
But the paper still managed to put a patriotic spin on the Irish triumph with a story entitled: "Warnie cleans up on Melbourne Cup."
Yes, larrikin leg spinner Shane Warne had a couple of chunky each-way bets on Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer, copping the Trifecta for good measure, and he'll presumably be playing up his winnings on Australia to beat England 5-0 in the Ashes.
The Herald Sun is certainly up for the scrap, judging by its characteristically empathetic reporting of England's pre-series injury crisis.
"Another Pom down!" jeered a headline on Thursday after Nottinghamshire fast bowler Jake Ball twisted his ankle in a warm-up game.
Star all-rounder Ben Stokes is absent for reasons the Aussies are no doubt too polite to mention, and his replacement Steven Finn has already left the tour due to a knee injury (according to a diagnosis from those renowned medical experts at the Herald Sun, he's "Finn-ished for the Ashes").
Ball "became the latest casualty in England’s cursed Ashes build-up" with his injury "another blow to England’s ravaged pace stocks" but the Herald Sun has its lighter moments too.
The battle to keep wicket for Australia in the first Test in Brisbane is billed as "the stoush for the gloves" while ex-Aussie keeper Brad Haddin offers an unmissable lowdown on the beer-drinking form of his former teammates.
Haddin claims fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins can be "rascals" with a "little naughty-boy glint in their eye" after a few beers.
"But do not get stuck at the bar with Hazlewood," Haddin warns anyone planning a night out with the New South Wales paceman. "He’s got hollow legs."
In the past, us Poms used to believe the Aussies were a bunch of belligerent, uncouth beer-swilling louts.
Thank goodness we now have the internet to shrink the world and undermine those kind of lazy national stereotypes.