140 Characters Aren't Enough

The Twitter specification requires that messages be no more than 140 characters in length. This stems from message length limits in the SMS protocol, and is in my opinion a vestige of Twitter's early days when it was released as a friendlier way to send and manage SMS. At this point, though, the 140 character limit is just a pain in the ass.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with having a limit. One of the things that makes Twitter appealing is that the messages are so short that you're able to scan and read messages very quickly. And there's the whole "Brevity is the soul of wit" thing too. But too often I spend so much time trying to shorten and condense my messages in idiotic ways--not just paring down my language (which is a good thing) but leaving out vowels, shortening URLs, using "2" instead of "to" or "too," and various other annoyances.

So in my opinion, given that most people are no longer using Twitter for SMS, they should increase the character limit (but not too much) and also add a few pieces of metadata that would free up some writing space:

  • URL - many tweets contain a link to another page, and because of the 140-character limit, most people use some sort of URL shortening service for these links. These are problematic for reasons already outlined, so let's allow users one URL per tweet as metadata.
  • Location - more and more Twitter clients, especially the mobile ones, support adding a tweet's location. For the same reasons above, this should be metadata as well. Again, one location per tweet.
  • Reply To / Retweet - Twitter already added structured retweets, including the retweeter and the retweetee in metadata, so it wouldn't be too tough for them to add usernames into the metadata of replies as well. This way when someone has a long @name, I won't have to waste my precious chars on them.

Do you agree? Disagree? Fire off in the comments.