Should Twitter Mess With The 140-Character Limit?

By Jennifer Van Grove
The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Twitter is considering not being Twitter — and by that I mean the company may let users post tweets longer than 140 characters. A pair of reports earlier this week claimed the company is toying with a product for posting the opposite of pithy blurbs, as in long-form content.

What that product, reportedly called “140 Plus,” looks like is unknown, but for Twitter purists, myself included, changing or expanding Twitter’s character constraint sounds like blasphemy. The Twitter we know and love is one defined by brevity. One hundred and forty characters. No more. No less. That’s what sets Twitter apart from other social apps, Facebook in particular, where friends can ramble on for as long as they’d like, sometimes consuming the entire screen with a single post.

“If Twitter makes a tweet just like a Facebook post, which is just like an Instagram post, I won’t see the value,” said Golden Hill resident Peggy Gartin, 49, a Twitter power user who has been using the service since April of 2008. “Twitter will be just like everybody else.”

But the social network isn’t thinking about me or Peggy. It’s thinking about normals, as in the people who use Facebook, even Instagram, but not Twitter. And Twitter needs normals, if only to prove to anxious shareholders that the social media company hasn’t maxed out at its current 316 million monthly users. The number isn’t a small one, but in the digital rat race where social and messaging apps are speeding to reach a billion or more users, Twitter is lagging way behind. And the stock is in a major slump as a result.

Maybe, just maybe, Twitter can jumpstart growth, and investor confidence by association, if it dumps the character restriction, which is now just an artificial constraint — or so the logic goes. After all, plenty of Twitter users already circumvent the constraint by posting photos with text or composing a string of related tweets in what’s known as a “tweetstorm.”

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