The One Understated Benefit Of Twitter’s 140-Characters Limit

March 25, 2013 11:27 am

A lot has been written about how the 140 character limit of a Tweet (originally, a technical limit since text messages were used as one of the mechanisms to send a tweet) has encouraged people to share ‘quick updates’ – basically there is not much to write but the actual message, and this limit has been widely credited with the spread of the medium, since it eliminates the friction of writing something long.

This characteristic of a Tweet has also been credited with ‘forcing’ people to be brief and ‘to the point’ – in fact, many people thank this characteristic of a Tweet, since they need to read less to understand the message. This characteristic has also been praised for being the driving force behind Twitter emerging as a platform for ‘breaking news’: it is just 140 characters – and you can just tweet from a cellphone. This limit has also been quoted as the reason for a lot of ‘in-tweet’ innovations, like the hashtag for example.

Here is one benefit of a Tweet being 140 characters that we think has been understated but nevertheless has been as much as a driving force for Twitter’s success as the other reasons mentioned above: from a programming standpoint, consuming, storing and analyzing a tweet is much simpler than, for example, a blog post. It is just 140 characters. And this fact has been responsible for a lot many apps based on Twitter API moving from ‘traction’ to ‘scale’ very quickly. Yes, there are millions of tweets. But it’s all just 140 characters! (Right, we are not considering expanded tweets, but you get the idea).

This supply of brief messages has made possible, a huge spectrum of products and servies based on analyzing thought streams – isn’t that a dream scenario – self-summarized thought streams expressed in just 140 characters, presented to a programmer used to analyzing paragraphs of text trying to separate the signal from the noise ! (The signal to noise ratio in tweets is a different argument though)

And yes, we could have said all of this in 140 characters :-)

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2 Comments for “The One Understated Benefit Of Twitter’s 140-Characters Limit”

  1. I’m not sure it’s “just 140 characters” anymore… have you done a View-Source on any of Twitter’s pages lately? It’s rather incredible, all the extra stuff that comes along for the ride….

  2. junior

    Agree. There are tons of metadata for every tweet these days.

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