Twitter’s 140-Character Limit

Eugene Wei, on Twitter’s primary limitation:

I’d actually remove the 140 character limit on Tweets as well, though such a move would undoubtedly spawn even more of a public outcry than Instagram’s move since so many power users of Twitter are journalists. 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.

I would like to respectfully disagree. The 140-character limit is Twitter’s greatest strength. It’s one of the few communication tools that forces users to be concise. And although that sometimes seems difficult, it makes Twitter the perfect tool for celebrities and media personalities to communicate with their audience.

Do you think John Gruber would be able to read every single one of his mentions if users were able to send him novels-worth of text in a tweet? Of course not. He has over 365,000 followers and often receives upwards of 100 mentions per day.

The limited character count forces users to be creative in order to convey their message while living within the confines of the medium. It’s annoying, yes. But if users want a social network that allows for longer forms of communication then they can join Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger — there’s plenty of options.

And I hate to sound like an elitist, but maybe it’s okay for Twitter to make decisions that leave some users out. Maybe it’s okay that some users go elsewhere because they grew tired of having to edit their tweets down. Not every social network has to be the one-stop-shop for everybody.

And regarding the idea that Twitter’s secret power is “the network,” the network (or social graph) isn’t any one social network’s secret power, it’s no ones. Because Twitter isn’t the social graph and neither is Facebook or any other social network. Your friends are a collection of people that you’ve met throughout the years and Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, etc. are just communication tools that you use to keep in touch with them.

A spoons secret power isn’t the food itself, it’s secret power is that it’s capable of carrying food from your plate to your mouth. Other people have made advancements in spoon technology by inventing the spork, but I’d venture to guess you don’t have a drawer full of sporks in our kitchen. You likely have a drawer filled with an assortment of tools — salad forks, dinner forks, teaspoons, tablespoons, butter knives, and steak knives — like everyone else, that are all good at specific tasks and terrible at others. Nobody’s eating soup with a butter knife and, as such, nobody needs to publish their masters thesis on Twitter — there are better tools for accomplishing that task.

Of course, just like the existence of the spork, there will be people trying to hack Twitter into becoming the tool they want it to be. But in the end you’re never going to see a spork at a fancy steak house.