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Change Twitter’s Character Limit? Are They Insane?


Outing a rumor that’s been orbiting around the Twiitterverse, tech site Re/Code and the Wall Street Journal reported last week that founder and newly appointed CEO Jack Dorsey (then interim) is spearheading a project code-named “140 Plus” that would purportedly extend the service’s signature 140-character limit.

Feel free to reatwitter-logo-medd all about how this is because Twitter needs to grow its user base, monetize, evolve, compete with other social media platforms, blah blah blah, selfie sticks. According to co-founder Ev Williams, during an interview with Bloomberg TV at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, the market-watchers’ focus on Twitter’s user growth, which has stagnated at 316 million people, is overblown. The company has done a good job of driving revenue, he said, though he acknowledged the service wants to rope in more users.

In July, Twitter reported $502 million in revenue, exceeding analysts’ projections of $480 million. In fact, on this past Tuesday, Twitter introduced a feature called Moments, offering curated collections of tweets and discussions across the service – and so far, it’s a pretty cool feature.

But seriously, let’s talk about how an avid Twitter user FEELS about blowing out the 140-character limit.

The whole infrastructure of the Twitter experience is predicated on the ability to say what you will in 140 characters. This requires actual thought, effort, and creativity. I would, however, like to thank Twitter for the “retweet with comment” option rolled out in April so I could add my $.02 USD to the tweets I share. That was sweet, guys.

But even Dorsey said that he wants Twitter to be the most powerful microphone in the world. What keeps it powerful is that quirky brevity coupled with frequency (i.e. tweetstorms). It levels the field in a roundabout way – the clever, sarcastic, thoughtful, raunchy, journalists, podcasters, raconteurs, comics, poets, artists, and others use this 140-character challenge as a form of creative expression. And the trolls, haters, nut jobs, misogynists, misanthropes, dangerous, sociopaths, haters, and the even darker and more dangerous only have 140 characters to spew their messages. And how many times has a public figure accidentally shown his/her true colors in a Tweet? Priceless in and of itself – election year, anyone?

Leave the character limit alone, Twitter boys. You want to exclude links and user handles? I can live with that. But take away the 140, and Twitter is Facebook, Twitter is an office holiday party when you’re cornered by a sloppy drunk co-worker who won’t shut up, Twitter is the grumpy tool causing a line at the post office when you’re running late to work, it’s the anonymous troll in the comment section with an axe to grind and no character limit to cut him/her off, it’s the humblebragger on Facebook you want to unfriend IRL.

Get creative Twitter. You’ll find a way to continue making money without taking away what makes Twitter, well, Twitter. But here’s a suggestion: spell check. Stat.

–Kelly Mayfair Owens, Alchemy/Regan

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