The End of Twitter as We Know It?


A picture’s worth a thousand words. Soon, a tweet could be worth 10,000 characters. As reported by Re/code and the Wall Street Journal’s technology blog Digits, soon Twitter will no longer limit users to 140 characters. Instead, they’ll be free to let their fingers fly: to the tune of 10,000 characters. For reference, this piece is about 2,000 characters, with spaces. With an announcement expected in March, Twitter doesn’t intend the change to be a swan song for the site’s famed brevity. As Digits relays, “as users write beyond the 140 character limit, Twitter will signal to them that they have crossed the threshold…” And “for tweets longer than 140 characters, users will have to click and expand to see the rest of the text.” Instead, Twitter hopes to “jump-start user growth,” which has stagnated, and better compete with the likes of Facebook, whose character and user counts far surpass Twitter’s. Some users are in a twitter (sorry). But realistically, how much will change? First, with screenshots of longer messages and “tweetstorms” of numbered messages posted in quick succession, users can already exceed 140 characters. Many do. CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted his response to the news of the impending change with a screenshot of text with 1,317 characters. Second, even if it’s no longer Twitter’s business model, brevity is still the soul of wit. And today especially, shorter is better. In a 2015 study, Microsoft found the average human attention span is now 1 second shorter than a goldfish’s: 8 seconds versus 9. So if you have a message to push in our digital age of divided and diminished attentions, keep it short. For a site that grew up on “less is more,” maybe more isn’t less. Users might just have a little more room to let their messages soar. But once the change takes effect, we’ll have to measure which strategy is better, brevity or detail, on a particular social channel. Ultimately, Twitter certainly hopes the change is positive. Otherwise, it could see its users flock to its competitors.