A 280-character Twitter is stupid

A lot of people place their hopes on tech companies to save the planet and make literally everything better. At least the tech companies like to pretend they will.

And then you realize how silly so much of it is and how poorly run many of these companies truly are, with so many of them desperately scrambling for their share of our attention paid via advertisements and tracking which we collectively despise.

Twitter is not as big as Facebook and will never make as much money. They don’t have as much data about you as an individual and thus cannot target you for ads with the same gusto. The growth solution, from Twitter’s thinking, is that the 140-character limitation is really holding the service back.

To the contrary, the 140-character limitation is probably Twitter’s only unique selling proposition. Twitter with longer tweets is just like a Facebook newsfeed with more strangers and fewer actual friends. The brevity and speed have been an integral part of the service since its inception. While the original limit was due to the technical limitations of text messages, it nonetheless became part of the character of the service (see what I did there?). It’s definitely a pro/con, but it is unequivocally a true differentiating factor. I’m sure this has been tested and debated for months if not years, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right long-term decision. Platform growth and health don’t always align. MySpace was doing “great” for a while too.

I wrote little stories crammed into tweets every day for over 7 years. 1 I started one of a handful of publications that feature and even pay authors for tiny stories that fit in a tweet.

For me, the constraint has always been the whole point.

This isn’t to say someone couldn’t start a compelling 280-character limit fiction venue, but would it really be Twitter fiction? Twitter was inspiring as a creative venue for the same reason that people enjoy (if are also occasionally aggravated by) the linguistic acrobatics required to fit their thoughts into the short form. It’s challenging and often surprising.

Of course, I will fully admit that most of the 140-grumblings surely come from longtime users with emotional attachments, particularly writers. I don’t doubt that most people will be able to simply say what they want to say more easily with a longer limit, and that such engagement may—potentially—lead to more usage and advertising revenue.

But I’ll leave it to John Dingell (91-year-old former Congressman from Michigan):

See? No constraints and this post is way too long. Which is another way of saying that @nanoism will always have a 140-character limit.

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