Twitter is famous for its short updates. It is not only part of how it looks and works, but it is also one characteristic which influences how people communicate on Twitter. You really have to get down to the point, because you only have 140 characters to tell your whole story. What has been a major challenge to many marketers, social media managers, and Twitter addicts has also been Twitter’s main defining feature that has been setting Twitter apart from the countless other social networks.
The 140 character limit has been a reason why many people love Twitter – or dislike it and totally fail to understand how it really works.
Last week some rumors came up about Twitter ditching this famous limitation and going beyond 140 characters. Since it is more or less a rumor so far, we cannot be sure how this is going to look like in the end – if these rumors are true at all. Will they completely ditch the limit? Or will they simply change the way they count the characters?
Why is Twitter limited to 140 characters anyway?
Twitter started out as a service primarily based on SMS. And SMS at that time was limited to 160 characters. That is the simple explanation of why Twitter limited its messages to a length of 140 characters, leaving another 20 characters for the username.
Twitter already ditched some limits in the recent past
Twitter already started to go beyond their 140 character limit with some of their features. Recently they removed the limit of 140 characters for the direct messages, now allowing up to 10000 characters.
But that was not the only thing they changed. A lot of users have struggled to retweet with a comment and actually stating that this is a retweet in the tweet. This was a real challenge when the original tweet was already almost 140 characters long. So you had to change the text of the tweet in order to fit the “RT @user” into the tweet as well. So Twitter came up with the “Retweet with comment” feature earlier this year. This feature allows you to embed the original tweet when you retweet, thus allowing you to add a real comment when you retweet.
You can read more about the “Retweet with comment” feature here.
How can removing the Twitter 140 character limit look like
Speculation has it that removing the Twitter 140 character limit does not mean we will see real long-form posts on Twitter. One idea that circulates is that Twitter simply will change the way they count the 140 characters: Not counting a link or @ mentions of other Twitter accounts. That would leave more room for the actual message but still limit the length of the Tweet to a very limited number of characters as you still only have 140 characters for your message.
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Reactions on the web
The reactions on the web vary. But I have not seen many enthusiastic comments. While some outlets simply remain in a waiting position not commenting on the rumors at all, some already sing the death song on Twitter as they claim that Twitter will lose the only real characteristic that lets it stand apart from other networks:
What do you think?
It is an open secret that we here at The Social Ms love Twitter. We love the short messages, the openness and the quick interaction that we have so far only experienced on Twitter. While sometimes it is a hassle to fit the message in the 140 characters and a few more characters would serve well, I am a skeptic if this openness and quick communication can be upheld if we have to find our way through a clutter of endless long-form messages. However, the idea to leave the 140 characters to the actual text and do not count @mentions or links sounds like a good idea to me.
And while they are at it: Why not think about allowing a little more text in the Twitter Bio?
What do you think about removing the 140 character limit? Are you looking forward to it or are you rather agreeing with the above-mentioned articles who think that Twitter is losing the main characteristic? Let us know in the comments!