In 2015, I tweeted:
I hope Twitter never raises the 140-character limit. Over time, the self-restraint imposed by this arbitrary limit has made me a better writ— Jorge Arango (@jarango) November 18, 2015
A joke, but the sentiment was real: I liked Twitter’s 140-character limit. Although this particular number was somewhat arbitrary — a relic of the system’s early days as an SMS messaging tool — I thought having some limit was essential to Twitter’s value:
@peterme IMO 140 chars is not a magical limit, but a low limit is important to what the medium of Twitter is.— Jorge Arango (@jarango) January 5, 2016
I even suggested the expansion from 140 to 280 characters was a sign of lack of vision:
Yesterday, Twitter announced it’s considering increasing the 140-character limit for tweets — one of the service’s most distinctive (and valuable) features — to 280 characters. Why 280? I assume it’s an arbitrary number: Now with twice as many! This is the latest in a series significant structural changes the company has undertaken towards the goal of… well, that’s not clear. (Engagement? Increased revenue? Tighter control?) To me, they seem just more experiments on the path to figuring out what Twitter is. This, on an information environment where — no exaggeration! — dictums are being issued that could affect the fate of the planet.
In retrospect, my concerns were overblown. Twitter doubled the limit, and it’s a better platform as a result. Not because its content is better (I preferred Twitter when it was more lighthearted), but because writing is now easier.
Under 140 characters, I had to edit longer tweets carefully. Even then, I often sacrificed details that changed what I was trying to say. The 280-character limit strikes a better balance between conciseness and precision while requiring less effort.
While I still believe limiting tweet lengths is intrinsic to what Twitter is, I was wrong about what the limit should be. Doubling it to 280 characters was good.