Yesterday, reports emerged that Twitter was considering the possibility of extending the character limit past 140 to 10,000. I will fully admit I am not too sold on the idea at the moment but that is more down to the fact that I don’t know how Twitter is going to introduce such a change. However the move to 10,000 is not necessarily a bad thing.
When the news broke yesterday I will admit that I initially thought “Oh dear.” In fact I even tweeted that yesterday.
Oh dear. https://t.co/LptdiK2KLQ
— Mark Dalton (@TheMarkDalton) January 5, 2016
However some people were immediately blasting the whole thing as a “failure” and stating that this would be “the downfall of Twitter!” Not to mention people making the obvious comparison and stating that “Twitter is becoming Facebook!”
People, relax for a moment. Firstly these are just reports, nothing has been confirmed by the company. Now it is more than likely the case that these reports are true and that there are plans to expand past 140 characters and that makes sense.
At the moment it can be hard, sometimes impossible to articulate what we want in such a small space. This leads to people using the notes app and tweeting a screenshot of what they have written, or replying to their tweet multiple times until they get what they want across to followers. This makes your timelines messy and a bit all over the place and Twitter wants to find a solution to that.
Naturally people are panicking and thinking their timeline is going to turn into a big mass of essays and junk. Trust me, Twitter knows that there is strength in showing 140 characters, they are not going to start cluttering timelines with big essays and masses of content. Removing the character limit will no longer force users to cram thoughts into a few dozen words and will also put an end to people trying to figure out how to get their point across in 140 characters before abandoning a tweet completely.
The project has been called “Beyond 140” by the company and they feel that it could help with the ongoing growth problem. I get it, I understand that many of the hardcore and diehard tweeters feel that nothing needs to change and I am sorry to break this to you but that is simply wrong. Twitter needs to come up with new ways to help the network grow, we are reaching a point where it must grow.
Twitter is the social network playing catch up at the moment so the challenge that they must overcome is introducing a design which will encourage people to stick to around 140 as much as possible but at the same time allow users to share longer thoughts as necessary.
A big question though is how a move like this could affect publishers. In an online world where we want everything to be instant we have also discovered that clicking a link in Twitter for example means you have a few little seconds load time. Not a lot however it is proven to interrupt the reading experience and as a result Facebook introduced Instant Articles which preloads content instantly on Facebook so when you click the link it is there before you even blink.
Twitter could use the Beyond 140 project to create its own version of this, however it would also mean that they would have to deal with the problem of how publishers get paid for content.
Beyond 140 could be the first step in Twitter’s hosted content strategy to have articles there in an instant at your fingertips and I have to be honest, that is exciting! I have loved the instant article implementation on Facebook so far and would love to see something similar come to Twitter. On top of that, Twitter could possibly build rich ad content into these expanded tweets to allow developers to continue earning money on Twitter hosted content.
People who are labelling the move a failure are jumping the gun somewhat. However, the Beyond 140 project along with every new feature that was introduced in 2015 all have the same goal, make Twitter less daunting to newcomers.
As long as Twitter doesn’t turn the service into a long winded rambling mess (which I don’t think they will do), the Beyond 140 project could be the first step which stops us jumping in and out of different sites. Everything you want to read could be just there, neatly tucked up inside Twitter and available in an instant.
Re/code is reporting that the change could be introduced as soon as Q1 2016.