Change is coming to Twitter. The word is that Twitter will soon expand its character limit. It’s always been famous for 140 characters, but in the coming months, it’s poised to expand that limit greatly.
From a business perspective, do you expect an increased character limit to make Twitter a more powerful tool? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Earlier this week, Re/code reported, citing multiple sources familiar with Twitter’s plans, that the company intends to launch the expanded character limit by the end of the quarter. According to that, they’re eyeing a 10,000 character limit, but it’s not set in stone.
That doesn’t mean your Twitter timeline is going to be full of huge posts. The plan is apparently to keep that looking relatively the same as usual. The 140-character limit would still be in place from the timeline view, but users would be able to click on the Tweet to see the full, extended content.
This is a major move for Twitter, which has always stood by its character limitation, wearing it as a badge of honor in simplicity. Times change, however, and growth isn’t happening the way Twitter needs it to. It’s time for some changes.
As a regular Twitter user, I personally think it’s a fine idea. The simplicity will be maintained in the timeline view, and the additional content will be there if you want it, as will the option to compose it. Cutting tweets down to 140 characters can be a pain at times, so this could be refreshing.
A lot of Twitter users disagree. Many really like the current version, and fear the change will take away some of what they love about the service. But Twitter users basically complain every time any kind of change is on the horizon, and ultimately, Twitter has hardly suffered from a user experience perspective from any of it, at least in my eyes.
Twitter recently expanded the character count of Direct Messages to 10,000, which has been a very welcome addition to the service. In fact, when that launched, I talked about how much better this makes Twitter for customer service purposes. This is an area where businesses continue to struggle greatly. The expanded character limit for tweets can’t hurt in this area either.
It also has the potential to benefit marketers.
WebiMax CEO Ken Wisnefski had this to say about Twitter’s plans: “Unlike Facebook, Twitter hasn’t been as interesting to marketers because it’s a ‘quick hit’ scenario without stickiness for strong ad development. A more detailed platform, while it’s a huge derivation, could create a better marketing platform and scale ad revenue.”
As he notes, “While most wouldn’t deny social media’s and in particular Twitter’s influence in our digital lives, Wall Street to a large degree has been skeptical of Twitter’s ability to monetize through ad revenue.”
“While this significant change seems to alter the most basic functionality that made Twitter popular in the first place, it still offers something that you cannot get anywhere else, and that is a single online space where people can quickly see what the influencers they care about are saying,” Wisnefski adds.
Since news of the change has emerged, Twitter executives have talked about it a little. CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted some thoughts in the form of an image full of text (demonstrating an example of when more than 140 characters might be beneficial). Here’s what he said:
At its core Twitter is public messaging. A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly.
We didn’t start Twitter with a 140 character restriction. We added that early on to fit into a single SMS message (160 characters).
It’s become a beautiful constraint, and I love it! It inspires creativity and brevity. And a sense of speed. We will never lose that feeling.
We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it.
Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.
What makes Twitter, Twitter is its fast, public, live conversational nature. We will always work to strengthen that. For every person around the world, in every language!
And by focusing on conversation and messaging, the majority of tweets will always be short and sweet and conversational!
We’re not going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people. As long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.
And as I said at #flight, if we decide to ship what we explore, we’re telling developers well in advance, so they can prepare accordingly.
(Also: I love tweetstorms! Those won’t go away.)
Re/code published a follow-up to its earlier report with comments from Twitter COO Adam Bain. A couple highlights from that:
I’m very used to the idea that if we touch any part of Twitter, that people will complain.
Jack said it best in his tweet: There is a set of content that people already today are snapshotting and putting on Twitter. None of those snapshots of text are searchable, categorizable, indexable.
And that is likely the real value here. Twitter is already a valuable search service in certain scenarios, particularly if you dig into the advanced search features. Even with Google indexing some tweets, Twitter just has so much content you’re not going to find anywhere else. With expanded character counts, there’s room for a whole lot more, and more high quality content at that. For that matter, it seems likely that these longer-form Twitter posts would be ideal for Google results.
If you ask me, this is a smart move by the company. It will still be interesting to see how the masses react when (and if) it goes into effect.
What do you think? Should Twitter go this route or keep things how they are? Discuss.
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