Why Are Tweets Only 140 Characters Long?
The good news is that Twitter is planning to lift its 140-character limit for tweets. But that just raises a different question: why did that limit exist in the first place?
It’s because Twitter started out via SMS. At the time, SMS carriers had a cap of 160 characters on each message, but Twitter reserved 20 characters for usernames. That’s why tweets were limited to 140 characters.
But hold on. There’s more to the story!
just setting up my twttr
— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
The idea for the micro-blogging service came from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey ’s fascination with how a city functions in real time. He mapped the city’s support systems — from emergency services to vehicle dispatches — through the lens of the Web.
And guess what that gave him? A rich picture of a city in motion. But there was something missing from the picture: people, the one element that made the city come alive.
Dorsey’s idea of creating a type of digital dispatch service gained momentum when he signed up for a LiveJournal account in 2000. From that point it was a matter of finding the right medium, and that medium happened to be the humble SMS protocol, which in turn brought the 140 character limit.
Of course, a lot more behind-the-scenes work went on before the Twitter we know was born. Here’s a snapshot of Twitter’s beginnings:
So do you think the 140-character limit is a good thing? Does Twitter need that constraint to stop people from rambling? Or should Twitter let people send out longer tweets without having to use third-party services ? Share your take in the comments.