When 140 isn’t enough.

by Christopher Paul on December 24, 2008

There have been times where Twitter’s 140 character limit is too small. I understand the brevity is part of the allure and function of a micro-blog; you can’t txt more than 160 characters and since Twitter uses some of them, a 140 limit makes sense from that perspective. But as popular as the diminutive message size is, you sometimes wish that limit wasn’t there. I wish the limit was 200.

You probably see it more than you think. Top bloggers and Twitterers do – usually when conversing amongst themselves. Not-so-popular Twitters that I follow often do the same but with more frequency. I’ve seen people ramble about how Macs are great, Linux rulz, Vista rocks in multiple messages… well, maybe not that last one about Vista. 😉 Usually there are between three and four tweets of two to three sentences each tweet. That’s a paragraph; that’s a blog post. Maybe not a full out rant or article like this post is turning into but long enough to use a different medium.

But there are times where an extra ten or twenty characters would be enough to complete a thought. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to reply to someone only to have to cut my idea off because the person’s ID takes up room. Since my Twitter ID is long, people who reply to me have to be very careful not to express much thought into a message. Having the extra 40 spaces would let me reply to long IDs and keep one thought in the message.

Twitter purists would say that’s exactly what you described above – long rants should be blog posts, direct messages longer than 140 should be sent in email, and 200 characters won’t fit in a txt message. Mostly, I’d agree with that. I wouldn’t dare tweet this post (other than the link to it). If I wanted to convey a lengthy message to one person, I’d normally email them. There’s certainly no way for me to txt more than 160 characters so if it went over, I’d send two messages (and who wants to pay for two messages?).

But I don’t use Twitter to receive many txt messages; I uses txt messages to send a message to Twitter where I’m comfortable with the short message size. Twitter doesn’t support txt messages outside of the US anymore because of the cost. The web and API interfaces do just fine. I don’t have my follower’s email addresses and wouldn’t want them because I keep my Twitter life and my email life separate; they don’t have mine either. But I still will want to use the many Twitter applications to give directions & advice to, retweet a long message, or squeeze that extra vowel in there to make evry wrd a norml 1.

I love Twitter. I think it’s a truly powerful communication tool that has – and will continue to – revolutionize how we spread information and ideas around the globe. But I would argue the strength of the service is not firmly defined by the length of the message – but how the messages are delivered; the follow/reply method is what makes Twitter special. I see no harm in increasing the potential size of the message to 200 characters.

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