Five years in internet time is analogous to several entire human lifespans. So, it’s no surprise that Twitter seems to have been with us forever. Despite the near ubiquity of the little blue bird, most of the service’s tweeters have no idea why they are constrained to using a mere 140 characters to express themselves.
Farhad Manjoo over at Slate has a well-reasoned plea to increase this upper character limit for the more garrulous amongst us.
Though perhaps more importantly is the effect of this truncated form of messaging on our broader mechanisms of expression and communication. Time will tell if our patterns of speech and the written word will adjust accordingly.
[div class=attrib]From Slate:[end-div]
Five years ago this month, Twitter opened itself up to the public. The new service, initially called Twttr, was born out of software engineer Jack Dorsey’s fascination with an overlooked corner of the modern metropolis—the central dispatch systems that track delivery trucks, taxis, emergency vehicles, and bike messengers as they’re moving about town. As Dorsey once told the Los Angeles Times, the logs of central dispatchers contained “this very rich sense of what’s happening right now in the city.” For a long time, Dorsey tried to build a public version of that log. It was only around 2005, when text messaging began to take off in America, that his dream became technically feasible. There was only one problem with building Twittr on mobile carriers’ SMS system, though—texts were limited to 160 characters, and if you included space for a user’s handle, that left only 140 characters per message.
What could you say in 140 characters? Not a whole lot—and that was the point. Dorsey believed that Twitter would be used for status updates—his prototypical tweets were “in bed” and “going to park,” and his first real tweet was “inviting coworkers.” That’s not how we use Twitter nowadays. In 2009, the company acknowledged that its service had “outgrown the concept of personal status updates,” and it changed its home-screen prompt from “What are you doing?” to the more open-ended “What’s happening?”
As far as I can tell, though, Twitter has never considered removing the 140-character limit, and Twitter’s embrace of this constraint has been held up as one of the key reasons for the service’s success. But I’m hoping Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday by rethinking this stubborn stance. The 140-character limit now feels less like a feature than a big, obvious bug. I don’t want Twitter to allow messages of unlimited length, as that would encourage people to drone on interminably. But since very few Twitter users now access the system through SMS, it’s technically possible for the network to accommodate longer tweets. I suggest doubling the ceiling—give me 280 characters, Jack, and I’ll give you the best tweets you’ve ever seen!
[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]