Twitter 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.)
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:
Twitter: What do our users want? Users: An edit button and relief from spam/abuse. Twitter: Novella-length Tweets it is!
— Derrick Snyder (@Derrick_Snyder) January 5, 2016
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.