The late-aughts were home to some very important cultural touchstones: Horrible people incessantly quoting Borat; a young Kanye West embarking on his decades-long quest to tell the entire world how great Kanye West is; and a humble start-up called Twitter reinventing the digital hivemind.
People may forget that Twitter was originally conceived as an SMS-Web hybrid platform. That’s why tweets have that seemingly arbitrary 140-character limit: They were corresponding to the 160-character SMS limit (saving an additional 20-character buffer for usernames).
This made perfect sense in the pre-smartphone era. But flash forward to 2015: You can still interact with the Twitterverse entirely though text if you really wanted to, but that’s not how most users (in the first world) do it. Still, the 140-character limit has persevered in the app-centric mobile era.
While there have been calls from some users and assorted punderatti for Twitter to increase or remove this anachronistic limit, the Twitter brass have dutifully remained on #Team140. At least, that was the case. Following an executive shake-up which saw the ousting of CEO Dick Costolo and the addition of interim-CEO (and company co-founder) Jack Dorsey, the company is reportedly considering breaking the character limit.
According to Re/Code which quotes “multiple people familiar with the company’s plans,” Twitter is building “a new product” that will allow users to share tweets that are longer than the current limit, though the exact details of this new feature were not revealed.
Over the past few months, the company has made some welcome tweaks to its ecosystem, like doing away with its unnecessary 140-character limit on direct messages and introducing “quote tweets,” which allow users to utilize more characters to comment on a retweet. However, an outright smashing of the tweet ceiling would be a whole new thing entirely.
While there have been a number of DIY and third-party workarounds that have allowed users to include additional information in a tweet (e.g. OneShot,TwitLonger), the 140-character limit has remained fundamental to Twitter’s DNA. I will reserve judgment on some version of a baked-in feature that will allow users to include more verbose expressions behind a click wall of some kind (e.g. “click here to read more” or “click to expand”), however I implore the lords of Twitter to keep the greater character limit in place. Here are three great reasons why:
1) To Keep the Global Conversation Going
While smartphones rule the mobile landscape in the U.S., billions of users around the world still rely on basic feature phones. There have been (and will continue to be) sharp advances in high-bandwidth mobile networks in developing markets, and the price of capable smart devices will continue to fall. However many users around the world will depend on feature phones for years to come.
That means there are millions (if not billions) of potential users in the world who don’t have access to a brawny mobile Twitter app. These new users would be completely shut out of the global conversation if their device could not processplumes of text. Let’s not do that.
2) It’s the Perfect Scanning Length
The human brain is designed to see patterns. That’s what makes Twitter’s endless river of thought sneezes such a great funnel of information. I can just scan without reading each and every idea fart, looking for information that is relevant or interesting to me. If this limit was expanded (to say, paragraphs in length), then the river of global information would become untenable.
3) Constraints Are a Good Thing
I talk too damn much. And my unending supply of blabber ammo often comes out in my writing. As a writer, I cherish constraints to which I am forced to find ways to work around. It keeps things interesting. I can be as flowery as I want in my long-form writing, but in a tweet, I am forced to get straight to the point. It’s been a positive thing for me.
Constraints are beautiful things. They make freedom better. For example, I am not offended by profanity at all, but I’m happy that there are “naughty” words out there that I’m not supposed to say in certain situations. They make language more fun! I use curses sparingly, but when I do, it’s because I really want those words to have an effect.
For example, I loved how the Seinfeld writers found new and unique ways to refer to a taboo subject manner in the infamous episode, “The Contest.” That was something that could only exist under the constraints of broadcast television. Conversely, in an unfiltered medium like rap, I find nothing more boring than profanity. In this world, very little of anything is verboten and the artists have taken full advantage of this freedom. So much so, that it’s become worth taking note of when there’s no profanity. To reiterate, I’m not offended by these lyrics, I’m just super bored by them.
Options are completely overrated. Sometimes we do our best work when we are forced to work with a limited palette. Don’t mess up a good thing, Twitter.
Source | www.pcmag.com