We Don’t Need 280 Characters

It’s official.  Twitter has jumped the shark.  Well, maybe it’s not that extreme, but I fear that this latest decision won’t end well for the service that’s already struggling.

Twitter officials announced this week that they’ve decided once and for all to double the number of characters allowed in a tweet, from 140 to 280.  They’ve been testing the change for a couple of months.

Twitter was initially limited to 140 words because at the beginning of the service people tweeted via text, which at the time had a 140-character limit.  There’s a historical reason for the limit, even though nearly everyone who uses the site does so on a smartphone or computer now.

Last year, Twitter made other changes to ease the character count restrictions, but those made sense.  They merely reduced the character “penalty” for a link.

The unique thing about Twitter and its 140-word restriction was that you were limited from getting too wordy.  You can make a post nearly as long as you want on Facebook or Instagram, but on Twitter you simply had to be brief.  You had to think about what you really needed to say.  When you take away something that makes a service unique, it tends to fade into the woodwork.

For an example of what can happen when a social media outlet strays too far from its roots, we don’t have to look far.  Remember Foursquare and its competition to become “mayor” of a location?  I don’t know the stats, but I can guarantee that it was a lot more popular before wholesale changes were made to the service.