The messages are now longer as well: The company recently doubled its limit for tweets to 280 from 140 characters.
Starting on Jan 1, 2018, the library will apply the same selective discretion to tweets that it uses for other documents, collecting and archiving material around themes or events of effect.
This does not mean that the Library of Congress will stop keeping track of some tweets, merely that it won't be trying to log and archive all of them.
According to the Library of Congress whitepaper, it is because the "nature of Twitter has changed over time".
The Library's first objectives were to acquire and preserve the 2006-10 archive; to establish a secure, sustainable process for receiving and preserving a daily, ongoing stream of tweets through the present day; and to create a structure for organizing the entire archive by date. The volume of tweets the Library receives each day has grown from 140 million beginning in February 2011 to almost half a billion tweets each day as of October 2012.
Despite the change, the Library would keep its existing archive of the 12 years since Twitter first went online.
The move, announced in a Tuesday (Dec 26) blog post, brings to an end an ambitious effort, which began in 2010 when Twitter donated its full archive of public tweets to the library.
"The Library generally does not collect comprehensively", the Library of Congress said in a statement.
With this change, the library is acknowledging that, no, it doesn't want all the tweets.
"Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting", the institution said. "As a result of the review, the Library has determined that its initial Twitter collection will consist of a twelve-year snapshot of the beginning of one of social media's most important and transformative communication tools". We now have an archive of approximately 170 billion tweets and growing.
Future decisions on which tweets to preserve will be made using guidelines for general collecting that apply to other areas.
Going forward, the library says it will focus on preserving the enormous collection of tweets that it has already amassed: a sort of oral history of the social media era.
"The Twitter Archive may prove to be one of this generation's most significant legacies", the library said in a document detailing the decision.
So when will future historians get to dig into the vast Twitter archive now being held by the U.S. government? "Future generations will learn much about this rich period in our history, the information flows, and social and political forces that help define the current generation".
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