The Point of the Twitter Character Limit

If you’ve ever used Twitter (and if you still haven’t, check out my post on why use Twitter or check out my COMPLETE Twitter tutorial), then you’re familiar with its Twitter character limit of 280 (initially 140). Letters, symbols, numbers, and spaces all count as characters, forcing you to make the most of what you’ve got.

There have been pushes and support to expand on the Twitter character limit, even from within the Twitter camp, but I see this as a pretty slippery slope. As soon as you give people 290, they’ll want 300, and so on. At what point does Twitter lose its identity? Many people believe that the constraint is part of what makes Twitter interesting, unique, and popular for some people.

Something interesting to think about is that in some character based language cultures, that same 280 character constraint is not a constraint at all. In the Chinese language, one character can account for entire words, enabling a Chinese Twitterer to say anywhere from 2 to 20 times or more than someone in the United States or anywhere else who uses a letter based alphabet.

Not only does this show that the purpose of Twitter varies substantially between cultures given this disparity, but it challenges the point of the character limit given its completely different execution between cultures. If some international Twitter users are able to convey a great deal more just by virtue of their language, should this call for a change?

I’d be interested to hear some of your thoughts on this. How much of the 280 Twitter character limit even accounts for its identity? Weigh in on this in the replies.

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