I’ve got mixed feelings about Twitter’s experiment with allowing longer tweets (280 characters vs 140).
Like many users expressed on Twitter (of course) yesterday, I’m quite fond of the 140 character limit.
I don’t like the constraint when I compose tweets, but I love it when I consume them.
There are few things that make Twitter unique, defensible, and essential (contrary to many Twitter haters, it is all of those things).
At or near the top of the list is the sort bursty stream of information Twitter presents to the consumer.
There is no other place where I can consume a firehose of information across so many topics as quickly as I can on Twitter.
Just looking at these tweets from Jack and Biz, I am not sure 280 characters is going to be a good thing for the consumption experience.
This is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence! https://t.co/TuHj51MsTu
— jack (@jack) September 26, 2017
Originally, our constraint was 160 (limit of a text) minus username. But we noticed @biz got 1 more than @jack. For fairness, we chose 140. Now texts are unlimited. Also, we realize that 140 isn’t fair—there are differences between languages. We’re testing the limits. Hello 280!
— Biz Stone (@biz) September 26, 2017
On the other hand, I think running experiments like this is the right thing for Twitter and every app out there to do.
And they can’t run an experiment like this without telling the world about it. I’m seeing longer tweets in my timeline. They can’t keep that a secret.
The one piece of advice I would give the Twitter product team (who explained themselves in this blog post) is that they should test 160, 180, 200, 220, 240, 260, and 280.
I suspect they will get the biggest impact with slightly longer tweets but not all the way to 280.
I frequently run out of characters in my tweets. But generally not by a lot. If I had another 20 or 40 characters, that would reduce my character limit frustration significantly.
It’s also easier to introduce gradual change to a user experience than radical change.
And doubling the tweet size is a pretty radical change.
So I’m glad everything is on the table at Twitter in an effort to improve the user experience. That’s how it should be. But I’d be careful about this experiment and test a wider range of tweet sizes if I were them.