Twitter was built 9 years ago. About a year later the hashtag was born. SMS was on the rage and 160 characters were all we had for the time being. Twitter’s 140 characters messages left enough space for ads to match the 160 characters of SMS.
This is before the rise of smartphones, wireless broadband and the popularity of photos and videos. Fast forward to 2015 and the state of Twitter today.
Twitter is real-time. It’s powerful. It’s diverse. It’s also pretty old school. A broadcasting platform for one to many platform. Having a conversation is hard and limited by Twitter’s 140 characters. Here’s why.
Twitter is the most powerful communications tool of our time. It shows everything the world is saying rn…10-15 minutes before anything else.
— Jack (@jack) October 5, 2015
140 Disturbing Reasons Twitter Lies To You Everyday
In 2015 tweets contain links, photos, videos, hashtags, mentions and text. Twitter counts this content as characters subtracted from the space available for text. The space left for actually writing something is an exercise for creative thinking.
Having a conversation with more than one person is almost impossible. Every username mention takes valuable space from the message itself. Then you have photos, videos and hashtags.
Here’s how much space left for actually writing something in a tweet.
Usernames and hashtags are calculated as 7 characters each on average. Photos, links and videos have standard length of 23 or 24 characters.
A tweet with a photo, link and hashtag offers 64% or 90 characters for text, including spaces.
A tweet with a photo, link, hashtag and mention for having a conversation leaves 59% or 83 characters for text. Including spaces. That’s an impossible number of words to have a conversation. Unless Twitter thinks conversations as a broadcast. Of tiny. Fragmented. Pieces of Ego. Do you really talk or think like this?
Not every tweet should have a photo but hashtags, links and more than one person mentions are common.
Interestingly enough Twitter’s own research suggests the following. Interestingly enough Twitter’s own research suggests the following. “A tweet that doesn’t include a # or @ mention will generate 23 percent more clicks. When the tweet is focused on driving an app install, forgoing a # or @ mention increases clicks by 11 percent”.
This might be good for advertisers and big publishers but not for users. No wonder why Twitter is having big time problem appealing to mainstream users. Which leads to lack of user growth. Which makes advertisers and publishers unhappy.
What if Twitter stopped counting photos, videos, hashtags and mentions as characters? Keep the core of the platform intact while lowering the barrier for expression. 140 characters for pure text and conversation. Everything else should be meta and context. Because this is exactly what Twitter suggests anyway.