Here’s what long tweets will do for Twitter: nothing

long tweetsTwitter CEO Jack Dorsey suggested that he might allow long tweets — up to 10,000 characters. That’s fixing a bug, not fixing Twitter. It won’t change much.

Twitter has limited Tweets to 140 characters since the start, a limit that arose out of length restrictions on text messages. Short tweets defined the service. Nobody tweets by text message any more, but the character limit is now, like a tradition, embedded in our perception of Twitter.

What would Twitter be like without the restriction?

Dave Winer has a neat visualization of the change. His “fat tweet” doesn’t appear fat at first — it just has “See more” at the end. Click and it expands. (You can see the quick demo on his site.)

fat tweet
Graphic: Dave Winer

So the tweetstream stays the same — a river of skinny tweets. The long tweets don’t take up more room until you click to see them.

As I’ve written, though, the Twitter experience will continue to suck until the order of tweets changes. Until they fix that, Twitter will be crowded, a poor place for conversations, and generally cacophonous. And as Derrick Snyder tweeted:

Here’s what will change, though:

  • People will write normal sentences instead of cryptic tweets that sound like telegraph messages written in a phone booth. (I hope you appreciate how I got two separate anachronisms into this one observation.)
  • You’ll see more hashtags and links in each tweet.
  • Pundits and other commentators will stop with the silly, hard-to-follow tweets split into pieces with “1/”, “2/”, and so on. They’ll just write a short paragraph which will become an expanding tweet.
  • Celebrities will keep posting inane observations and photos, now with no restriction on the length. People will keep following and commenting on them because they’re famous.
  • Donald Trump will be able to call Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders “losers” in a single tweet, instead of splitting it up into several.

This won’t destroy Twitter, but it won’t save it, either. And the interesting conversations will still be on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Haha–love that Derrick Snyder tweet. I think Twitter is going to hang itself trying to copy Facebook. But you are right–long tweets are nothing new. But honestly, I don’t read them usually.

  2. I don’t know about changing the order, but cramming everything into one feed makes no sense. Why not let users create tabs à la Hootsuite? Twitter bought Tweetdeck a long time ago. Twitter’s an utter mess and, until it lets users decide what they want to see, will remain a niche product.

  3. I don’t frequent web sites to find out if someone has something new for me to read. I tried that back in 1999. There’s not enough time in a week to do that every day. This is why I subscribe to RSS feeds, the 2nd greatest invention after the word wide web.

    If it doesn’t show up in my RSS feed, I won’t go out of my way to find it. If your RSS feed consists of a summary followed by a link to to a silo like Medium or Facebook, I won’t be reading the rest. The NY Times? Maybe, since I can reduce the URL to a Google search that won’t restrict my reading, but it’s extra work, so it had better be something realllly interesting.

    But that’s just me and I know I’m eccentric…

  4. I remember Facebook before pages, before the timeline, before the newsfeed, and before the wall.

    Whenever I talk to high school kids (those who still use FB) and ask them if they can picture the site without a wall, their first question is, “What’s the point?”

    And that’s my point. FB was ripe of messages and pokes when the site was limited to people from colleges. We thought adding pages and timelines and walls was silly. But looking back, we can’t imagine the site without them.

    And this is how I think of the proposed 10,000-character tweet. Supposedly that’s the limit today for DMs. News to me as I hardly use DMs but it’s nice to know I can write for paragraphs there. As long as people can follow who they want and click “read more” or similar links if they want to keep reading beyond 140 characters, how will this ruin Twitter? I agree it won’t change anything; but it might enable some companies to stop pointing followers to their blogs when they can blabber on in a tweet instead.