Twitter is finally ready to break the 140 character limit

Steven Loeb · September 29, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4068

Reports are surfacing that Twitter is working on long-form content, thanks to Jack Dorsey

When Snapchat first came out, it limited its users in terms of what they could send. It was nothing but disappearing messages, which only struck around for a few seconds. Quickly, though, it started allowing longer forms of content, most so it could start showing advertising. Why, then, is Twitter still tying itself to the old "140 character" limit? Why hasn't the company grown at all since its first iteration?

Those are questions that users, and Twitter itself, apparently, have been asking for a while. Now, finally, Twitter seems ready to burst out of its constraints.

The company is said to be working on allowing Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service, according to a report out from Re/Code on Tuesday. 

The service is being described as a "new product," so it is unclear now if this would be a new type of Tweet or perhaps a brand new app, under the Twitter name. 

The 140 character limit is what gave Twitter it's hook. There are plenty of place on the Internet for long-form content, but here was a place where users would be forced to get their thoughts out in a limited and concise manner.

Years later, it has become clear that 140 characters is more of a burden than anything else. First of all, it has not stopped anyone from still using the site for long form content. Instead they just go on "Twitter rants" where they say what they want to say in 10 or 20 Tweets instead of one.

The second big problem: any hashtags, links or user handles all get counted, giving users even less space to craft a message.

Expanding the 140 character limited has been discussed internally at Twitter for years, according to what sources told Re/Code.

What changed now? Two important things. First is Twitter's major problem with growing its user base. The company has been slammed repeatedly over the last couple of years, as quarter after quarter showed a slowing number of new users.

The company tried numerous initiatives to help, including overhauling the sign in process, and finding ways to monetize non-users by running ads on third-party Tweets. None of it worked that well, and its partially what cost Dick Costolo his job as CEO.

That brings us to the second reason: Costolo's replacement, Twitter's Co-Founder and former CEO, as well as its Chairman of the Board, Jack Dorsey.

Under Dorsey's leadership, the topic of longer-form content started bubbling up again as a way to combat Twitter's user base problems.

People have been very precious at Twitter about what Twitter can be and how much it can be evolved,” one current senior employee said in a statement. “Having Jack come in and say it’s okay makes all the difference in the world.”

Whether or not Dorsey stays on permanently as CEO of Twitter, and, given Square's impending IPO, my money says that he will not, perhaps he has already done enough to start to turn things around at Twitter in a way that Costolo would have been able to. Looks like we were right about Dorsey's return!

VatorNews has reached out to Twitter for comment on this report. We will udpate this story if we learn more. 

(Image source: simplisafe.com)

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes

Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs

Twitter

Startup/Business

Joined Vator on

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.

 

What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.