A new Twitter service has found a way around Twitter's 140-character limit by using letter-like Unicode characters.

'Maxitweets' can be up to 200 characters long, an increase of over 40 per cent over standard tweets as single Unicode characters take the place of two letters in the alphabet.

Because Twitter works in many countries around the world it transmits tweets in Unicode, the universal font language that includes all the letters in the Roman alphabet plus glyphs to allow it to reproduce Scandinavian, Chinese, Hebrew and Arabic characters, among others.

Global goobledigook

Among these 100,000 characters are many glyphs that look (a bit) like two Roman letters stuck together. For example, a single Cyrillic character looks like the letters 'i' and 'o' stuck together, while the nanosecond character is similar to an 'n' and 's'.

"We spent weeks combing through thousands of glyphs in many languages - Cyrillic, Thai, Arabic, Hiragana," says Wytze Hoekstra, project manager at FrisianStyle Productions, which runs www.maxitweet.com. "We then wrote a javascript engine that compresses text in the background and delivers a user-friendly experience."

The website allows you to choose the level of compression. Basic compression means the fewest saved characters but the best readability, while heavy compression replaces virtually the Roman letters and, to our eyes, is bit of a mess. The Maxitweet service can also 'translate' your message into text speak - removing vowels and adding @ symbols - to further irritate your followers.

You also have to bear in mind that not all devices will be capable of showing the full Unicode character set faithfully, so use with caution.