The deeper story behind Twitter’s alleged plan to go past 140 characters

Mumbai,Marco D’Souza: Twitter is what it is due to its defining 140-character limit–the limit that over the years spawned oceans of creative brevity. But in the midst of the rumours indicating they may be blowing past that limit–even to the 10,000 character mark–there are some interesting undertones that warrant surfacing.


Some context first: Twitter has always played in the arena of breaking news and instant conversations that are often ephemeral in nature. And while brevity has been the mainstay of communicating on Twitter, it has often left users wanting for more during those times they wanted to convey more.

But even in the face of the 140-character limit, it hasn’t really stopped any of us from getting the bigger picture across–from short-links that redirect to larger articles on external websites to embedded YouTube videos to Vine clips to GIFs and inline photographs, we have in effect already been having Twitter conversations that far breach that 140-character limit, without even knowing it.

But there’s a change brewing in the world of online content consumption–social media sites are becoming increasingly keen on keeping their users on their platforms, and are building ever more creative ways to retain them. Facebook, with their Instant Articles feature is a case in point–instead of directing users to an external websites it renders the very article within the Facebook interface itself, and the experience is a lot swifter than the content opening in a new browser window. It’s an elegant, natural answer to the question, “Why read the article on another website when you can read it within the Facebook experience itself?”

From all accounts, Twitter seems to be on a similar path. So while there’s talk of the increased 10,000 character limit, it most likely does not imply that those 10,000 characters will actually show up within your Twitter stream as is. In every likelihood, you’ll still continue to see the familiar 140 character tweets, and if the Tweet is a precursor to a larger story it will most likely expand using a ‘Read more’ type click. The result? You can read the larger story within Twitter itself without having to leave it.

In a Tweet that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey put out recently, he didn’t really clarify this approach in as many words, but the implications are clear: Twitter is on the road to displaying more content directly within its own interface–content that can now be searched and indexed.

The only thing left to be seen now is how this is implemented.