Twitter is an amazing social media tool. While it is not as popular as Facebook, the vast majority of people in the modern world do have a Twitter account. It is a fantastic way to message a few friends, follow celebrities and have direct conversations with brands. Plus, it is a favorite among ‘trolls’, who will pick on any Twitter update posted by celebrities or politicians.
However, while Twitter is a great tool to allow you to be in contact with your favorite famous person, there is something really frustrating about it at the same time. The frustration is a result of the annoying 140 character limit. This means that, if you want to express your thoughts, you have to either be really good at one liners, or you have to censor yourself to only the important bits. Most people simply don’t think in 140 characters and they feel they could get to a cool punchline, but not in that way.
Some people feel that the 140 character limit is actually the most amazing feature of Twitter. It forces people to be interesting and avoids the lengthy monologue. The only way someone could possibly write more is if they were creating lists, using a different Tweet for each item on their list. And even then, it has to be short and to the point.
But some people, most notably former Flipboard vice president for product and Hulu senior vice president for product and marketing Eugene Wei believes that the strength of Twitter is actually not at all in the 140 character limit.
Yes, a 140 character limit enforces some concision in writing, rewarding the witty among us, but it also alienates a lot of people who hate having to edit a thought multiple times just to fit in the arbitrary limit. Lots of those people abandoned Twitter and publish on Facebook instead.
In fact, Wei feels Twitter should not just ditch the limit, but that it should have done so a long time ago. He believes that Twitter could put certain things in place to make sure someones feed isn’t overwhelmed by lengthy dialogues, such as limiting how much people can see and forcing them to click on ‘see more’ if they want to see the rest. He feels that Twitter would love people to believe that there is some secret power in the 140 limit, but this is actually not true.
Interestingly, when Twitter first started, the same 140 character limit existed on their direct messages. It took them years to remove this, but they finally did just last month. It took years for this to happen, but it did happen. So why not take it one step further? It seems that Twitter is itself not ready to give up on the one thing they feel sets them apart from the other social media platforms. In fact, they made an official announcement to say they had no intention of removing the character limit on regular Tweets.
You may be wondering what this means for the public side of Twitter. In a word, nothing. Tweets will continue to be the 140 characters they are today, rich with commentary as well as photos, videos, links, Vines, gifs, and emoji. So, start working on those sonnets.
However, experts like Wei say this simply will not do. He feels that adding a ‘read more’ feature would be very easy and would actually attract a lot more users to the platform. And he also feels other fixes could be added. In fact, Twitter could change a whole lot of things to make it a far more effective conversation network. For instance, the idea that people have to put a period before the user name when they reply so that people can see it, is terribly outdated. It also seems highly unfair that someone’s Twitter name is included in the 140 character limit. All of this really stifles people’s ability to have real conversations, and this means that they will turn elsewhere – Facebook.
According to Wei, features can easily be changed, and they should be. He feels that the core functionality of Twitter will always remain the same. Additionally, he does not believe current users would leave the platform if they could suddenly put more characters in their Tweets. Twitter, as it stands, is a limited platform and some people may be used to these limitations by now, the reality is that it stops others from signing up, or from using it properly.
Wei explains that social networks all have to find their unique niche, but they must learn that it is not a singular feature that they offer that gives them the power to attract users. Rather, people expect that networks, just like other types of businesses, evolve and change. Facebook, for instance, now forces mobile users to use the Messenger app, which was long resisted but is now the second most popular app in this country, after Facebook itself. And it will soon include a range of other features, including the ability to make payments and access to a personal artificially intelligent assistant. This is what people look for in a social network, they are not looking for a company that holds on to archaic traditions.
Every time a social network makes a change, it is seen as a milestone. This means that they are becoming more self-aware and that they want to grow. Sometimes, these developments go wrong. But even if they do, users will have seen a commitment to make changes when changes are due. The conclusion? Twitter should lose its character limit.
At least some Twitter fans, however, argue that the company needs to figure out how to appeal to more users, and such changes could be part of the solution. Despite the appeal of the short-message format, they say the service is still too opaque and cumbersome for new users, and it’s not obvious why they should bother with it when Facebook is in many ways a lot more welcoming.