Why Twitter should stick to its 140-character limit

Sahil Mohan Gupta
Sahil Mohan GuptaOct 07, 2015 | 15:21

Why Twitter should stick to its 140-character limit

On Monday, October 5, 2015, Jack Dorsey made a stunning comeback. After taking over Twitter in July as interim CEO, he was named the company’s full-time CEO, despite heading another company he founded called Square. In an almost Steve Jobs-like return to the company he founded, Dorsey is being seen as a mature head who is running the company in a nimbler fashion than his predecessor Dick Costello, who resigned in July. Yes, he is the same guy who was pushed out of the company he founded a couple of years earlier.

To coincide with this, there is also talk about some new products that Twitter is working on. Within a day of his return, Twitter has launched a feature called "Moments", which makes tracking live events easier with stacked tweets. Moreover, there is also chatter that Twitter may ditch its haloed 140-character limit, which makes it distinct in the first place.

It is no secret that Facebook, which is a domineering force in the world of social media, wants to become the internet. It is also becoming a more favourable publishing platform and that’s an area Twitter struggles to compete in solely due to its 140-character limit.

But the micro-blogging website, I feel, must resist the temptation. It will not be Twitter if it doesn’t have that 140-character limit. Here’s why.

1. Twitter is based on brevity, on a sense of timeliness. It will lose all that the moment tweets are lengthier than 140 characters. Instead of streams of tweets, we will start seeing large passages, which will ruin the stream.

2. With tweets being more than 140 characters, Twitter will essentially become a shoddy version of Facebook. Facebook has had the head start at being Facebook for well 11 years. Twitter is good at being Twitter and it should instead focus on improving its core functionality. Moments looks like an impressive effort.

3. Instead of increasing the character limit, it should make things easier for publishers by not counting images and links in the character limit. This way publishers will be able to pass on their message in a more precise way making links more click-worthy than even Facebook.

4. The moment Twitter increases the character limit, it will have a fate not dissimilar to that of Google+. It will be in no man's land. It will have an identity crisis. Facebook is great for connecting with friends and family, Instagram is great for sharing photos, Tumblr is great for blogging and Twitter has always been good for consuming bite-sized information. The moment it loses the 140-character limit, it suffers the same fate as Google+.

5. Already, users can cross-post using Facebook to Twitter. The moment a Facebook post goes beyond the fabled 140 characters, a link to the Facebook post is generated, which is not the best user experience. Therefore, many including yours truly, often rejig the post and tailor it for Twitter’s character limit so that the best possible engagement is accrued.

The moment you remove the character limit there will be many users who’ll never even bother to log-in – they’ll parse everything from Facebook. Twitter will essentially become a deserted wasteland.

Last updated: October 07, 2015 | 16:13
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