The 140 Character Limit is Dead. Long Live The 140 Character Limit.
Or Something. Emphasis on the or. And the something.
Yesterday, word started flying around the Internet that the Death of the 140 Character Limit is upon us. If you’ve ever used Twitter you know the 140 character limit, even if you don’t understand why it’s there, or why it’s 140 characters.
The reason for the 140-limit, other than Twitter’s seminal idea of “short messages, please!” is that Twitter was designed for people to use over text messaging systems. SMS is limited to 160 characters, so the 140 character limit was about fitting in one message and leaving room for a user name.
This model is, of course, passé. Very few people pay for text message units any longer, and on most Smartphones you can ignore the SMS character limit with the worst thing that happens being the splitting of your message into several smaller chunks. Stories like this one just don’t matter any more.
The Death Of The 140 Character Limit Might Save Twitter
Twitter seems like one of the Internet’s great successes, but its investors think otherwise. Despite a huge user base and even though most social media gurus include it as one of just two must-use services, Twitter isn’t doing very well; in short, Twitter’s magic has worn off. It’s still the most useful of social outlets if you use it well, but we’re all a bit too inundated with the garbage in our Facebook feeds to pay attention to an even larger amount of trash from another source. “Let’s Get Bigger!” has stopped fueling Twitter’s growth.
With the Death of the 140 Character Limit all but a certainty, let’s ask: Why?
The answer is simple, and one we’ve been teaching here for quite a while: sending people away from your site is a very bad idea. Medium, Twitter’s prior attempt at acknowledging this Internet marketing truism, is actually pretty great, and unlike competitors like Woofer, Medium will likely be sticking around. And since Twitter can cross link with Medium as we do with The Website Helpers, there’s no reason it shouldn’t.
Expanding the 140 character limit on tweets, whether it’s to 10,000 characters or some other (likely lower; note that to this point the article you’re reading is barely over 2000 characters) number is about one very simple thing: Twitter wants you to create content on Twitter, and not use it to funnel people to your outside web properties.
This “keep them at home” idea isn’t limited to content. Several years ago, we told you about creating your own cloud using OwnCloud, and while the idea there is as much about security as anything else, it’s still a control play. And control is what the death of the 140 character limit really represents; Twitter wants you to stay on Twitter, and if they can do that by pointing you at a second on-Twitter page view … well … that’s all the better when measuring retention and tweaking their Search Engine Optimization!
Twitter doesn’t own you, any more than we (really) own pictures of Jimi Hendrix and Andre 3000. But as I’ve pointed out before—and it’s even more true a couple of years later—Nothing’s Disconnected Any More, and your job is to make sure as many connections as possible run through you.