Since the beginning, Twitter has kept a tight limit on the number of characters you can squeeze into a single tweet — 140 of them, to be exact. But that could all change this year. The company is said to be testing a change to the service that could allow you to post as many as 10,000 characters at a time.
Some Twitter users are already revolting over the idea — and the company's shares plummeted more than 2 per cent as word of the rumours disseminated — but if the change moves ahead, it would become Twitter's latest attempt at expanding the service's appeal. The company desperately needs new users, and investors worry that the firm's growth may be in danger.
In September technology website Re/Code reported that new Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was stepping up discussions around lifting the character limit as the company chases the kind of massive user base enjoyed by Facebook.
However, tinkering with Twitter's most defining feature would mark a major shift. Suddenly, users would be able to post whole essays or blog posts at a time.
To understand the scale of such a decision, consider that the average length of an English word is about eight characters. Adding a character to account for spaces between words, Twitter's new character length would allow you to post a 1111 word essay in English. That's roughly the same as a 2.5-page, single-spaced paper.
Twitter's famous technical constraint on conversation has led to creative feats of user poetry, whole genres of memes and conventions like the hashtag that have bled over into the rest of pop culture. So for the company to change its formula now would result in a shock to the internet ecosystem, reshaping the way people communicate online, produce digital culture and exchange ideas.
You could say that Twitter's impact on the internet transcends the size of its user base. Even if its community remains a fraction of the size of Facebook's, it still exerts a major force on the web. It remains to be seen how that might change if its signature feature was tweaked in such a massive way.
The Washington Post, with Fairfax Media
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