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I'm just curious to know why, years after the release of Twitter, it still has a 140 character limit? What's the purpose of this? Certainly even with billions of tweets a day it wouldn't cost that much to up that limit to 2,000 characters. Twitter has millions of dollars of ad-revenue and their decision to limit the expression of their users hardly seems like it is worth the compromise.

What other online services limit the expression of their users? And, what kind of users would seek out such a debilitating limitation?

I was recently considering making a social dating site, something like a OkCupid -- would a 140 character profile be desirable? Has there ever been a successful non-Twitter analog to this? Perhaps an ancient childhood game where kids had to formulate paragraphs with no more than 1.5 sentences?

Could someone help me understand Twitter?

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2 Answers 2

The reason is so that when tweets were sent via SMS, messages wouldn't be split. SMS messages are 160 characters and they wanted to leave 20 characters for the username.

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OP mentioned a childhood game, so WHY? –  pnuts Jul 4 at 21:50
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Constraints often produce better results -- giving someone "unlimited" words to express themselves mostly results in a lot of noise.

http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch03_Embrace_Constraints.php
http://www.minimalisttees.com/no-constraints-ruined-the-star-wars-prequels/

I don't think Twitter was smart enough to realize this when they set out, Fogest's SMS answer is the technically correct one. But they stumbled on the theory of constraints and it works. There are way too many words in the world, so forcing people to choose wisely before speaking rather than blathering along indefinitely (as I am doing now) results in.. better communication.

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One might liken tweets to the art of haiku and tanka -- poems with only a short description of the scenery, leaving the rest to the reader's imagination. However, for a social dating site in the question, forcing everybody to talk in poetry might not be the best idea. –  Asa Aug 7 '13 at 19:49
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So now, instead of carefully thought out paragraphs, we have 200 million people making sound bites. –  Robert Harvey Aug 8 '13 at 22:58
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@RobertHarvey 200 million people communicating about their lives, world news, cultural trends, marketing, etc. The signal to noise ratio depends on your interest. Also, Jeff, nice touch of self deprecation/humility (re: blathering) –  Brenden Nov 7 '13 at 23:16
    
@Brenden: Not impressed. As Eric Lippert once said, "When I have something substantial to say that can be said in less that 140 characters, then I'll post a Tweet." –  Robert Harvey Nov 7 '13 at 23:21
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So what you're saying is "To make people think about what they tweet more, for improved communication."? –  McKay Dec 2 '13 at 21:47
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