After hours of fierce debate over a report that Twitter was building a way to expand its famous character limit to 10,000 characters, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey responded by tweeting a picture of a statement, embedded below.
— Jack (@jack) January 5, 2016
I ran the image through free online optical character recognition software to get the following text:
At its core Twitter is public messaging. A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly.
We didn’t start Twitter with a 140 character restriction. We added that early on to fit into a single SMS message (160 characters).
It’s become a beautiful constraint, and I love it! It inspires creativity and brevity. And a sense of speed. We will never lose that feeling.
We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it.
Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.
What makes Twitter, Twitter is its fast, public, live conversational nature. We will always work to strengthen that. For every person around the world, in every language!
And by focusing on conversation and messaging, the majority of tweets will always be short and sweet and conversational!
We’re not going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people. As long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.
And as I said at #flight, if we decide to ship what we explore, we’re telling developers well in advance, so they can prepare accordingly.
(Also: I love tweetstorms! Those won’t go away.)
Quick thoughts after reading this:
1) What are users with disabilities to make of this tweet by Twitter’s CEO? No <alt text> for a screen reader. No blog post. No text at all. Social media platforms should be accessible to everyone.
@digiphile +1. @twitter oughtta offer built-in alt authoring like @EasyChirp or @Wordpress. But isn’t screenshorts the problem >140 solves?
— Eric Wright (@ewaccess) January 5, 2016
I don’t think this is a great look for Twitter, on this count, but maybe its developers might fix this issue for the website & apps.
2) Twitter’s cofounder used a screenshot of text, or “screenshort,” to get around the very 140 character limit that’s being discussed. There’s enough demand for this feature that ex-Twitter staff built an app just for that called One Shot.
3) Twitter deserves credit for watching what its users are doing on the platform to get around the character constraints.
“We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it,” he said. “Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.”
You don’t need to imagine what that would look like: Google+ had no such character limit and amazing text search from the start. (Google’s effort had other issues, leading to a complete redesign and relaunch of Google Plus in November.)
Or consider Facebook, which announced universal search last October after years of development.
4) Can you recall Twitter ever effectively asking its users what we want?
Is Twitter adapting to perceived need or an implicit feature request? Enabling people to tweet more text in that could be searched would indeed be more powerful and useful.
Frankly, I welcome the death of the tweetstorm, and Twitlonger hacks, and walls of text in images. 140 characters and a “read more” link? 👍
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 5, 2016
Is that what users want, versus, say, an edit button?
@jack just give us the edit button then we can talk characters mkay?
— Brian Ries (@moneyries) January 5, 2016
Or is it better search of the billions and billions tweets sent over the last decade, now that Topsy is gone and the Library of Congress archive hangs in limbo?
Or the quality filter that only Verified users (like me) have?
If a beta "Quality" filter had been provided to targets of abuse *1st*, I'd cheer on @Twitter. Giving it to @Verified users feels tin-eared.
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) March 24, 2015
Dorsey said that “as long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.”
I read that as good news. Let’s see what happens next.