Since its inception way back in 2006, Twitter has been characterized by one thing: its 140-character limit that made communication possible through short sentences, and invented the word “tweet” to describe these bursts of conversation.
For Twitter users, crafting a tweet within that restriction was something akin to composing a haiku. It was sort of annoying, but that’s the way it is. For nine years, Twitter has upheld this convention, as defining as Instagram’s square format. But as we all know, that’s gone now. Is the 140-character limit on tweets about to vanish, too?
The 140-character limit was first devised because Twitter began primarily as an SMS service, where that standard character limit is 160. 20 character were left for the username, hence the 140-character limit was born. And it has since stayed past enormous strides in technology that has rendered the 140-character limit not only useless, but inhibiting. Why use a service that impedes conversation/status updates when you can simply post your thoughts, well past 140 characters, on Facebook?
People within Twitter have been debating that for years. And a change may be on the horizon, designed to entice new users to the site without entirely losing its trademark characteristic: according to reports, Twitter will keep its 140-character limit — to a point. But they will stop counting links and user handles within that character limit, giving users a whole lot of extra space to play with. Sounds like a tweak I can get behind.
Twitter users know that links can often take up at least a third of that limit, and user handles also take another chunk, making it so that crafting tweets with both of those elements becomes a difficult and frustrating process.
While Twitter isn’t eliminating the feature completely, I wouldn’t want them to. Tweets should be short and easy to read in a second or two; I wouldn’t want Twitter to become like Facebook, cluttered as that platform is with boring status updates from friends you have long since lost touch with, loudmouths who poke political buttons, and those who (sadly) have recently posted those “disclaimers” prohibiting Facebook from sharing their personal photos (yeah, that’s a hoax).
So never fear, Twitter user: your platform’s rules remain intact, if a little bit tweaked.
And speaking of Facebook, that platform has its own ideas about updating to serve the needs of new, younger users, and it’s surprising how much the platform is culling design features from both Twitter and Instagram, a company under their umbrella.
The biggest change comes to the profile picture, which is being updated to look and feel more like a Vine. It’ll be a short video, rather than a normal photo (still more proof that tech developers like Harry Potter). It can also be set to change after a certain amount of time, automatically, operating under the belief that Facebook users use their profile photo to express their interests at a certain short period of time.
This feature was inspired by the rainbow-hued profile photos that were ubiquitous on Facebook after the SCOTUS ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Huge swaths of people on Facebook rainbow-fied their photos. The new Facebook feature will allow you to change your photo into something relevant like that, or perhaps a photo supporting a football team, and then automatically revert back when that event is over (or your team loses). Not too shabby, huh?
Facebook is also introducing an easier way for friends to see information about you, curated in a section called a “bio.” As in, a Twitter or Instagram bio. I see Facebook catching up.
The bio will appear, on mobile, underneath the profile picture (which will now be centered on the page, not off to the left) and can include work info, school info, and a slew of emojis (because that’s all the world needs).
The Facebook update, as well as being cleaner, more intuitive, and just plain cooler, is also a sneaky, sneaky way for advertisers to target a more specific demographic. The easier it is to post work/life information, the more people will want to fill out those bios. This makes it easier for advertisers to plant ads that will entice you.
Sneaky, huh? But it’s still loads better than having to pay for Facebook. Let those ads pay for your experience, rather than vice-versa.
The new update comes not a second too soon. Teenagers are flocking to Instagram by the thousands, eschewing Facebook for obvious reasons that made it seem innovative 10 years ago: the too-much-information aspect of it, the difficulty of navigation, and what many young teenagers see as the uselessness of the news feed, which is often cluttered with statuses no one cares about, and articles no one reads.
Instagram, on the other hand, is simple simple simple. Facebook seems to be incorporating simplicity, as well as a cool factor, in order to remain relevant. We’ll see if it works.