Twitter just dropped the announcement that it will be upping the websites long-held character limit from 140 to 280. A small change if you don’t use the website – it effectively rewrites the purpose of Twitter. Turning it from a microblogging platform into another Facebook clone. That’s bad for everyone and incredibly short-sighted by the company.Edit Details
One of the reasons users love Twitter is the fact that they don’t have to commit to reading huge sways of text. Unlike every other social media platform, Twitter demands conciseness from its users. Self-moderation is the order of the day if you want your Tweets to stand out in the ocean of posts. Yet today’s move by the company smacks of a company that doesn’t understand its own product. A move that feels awkwardly out of step with the demands a wider community has been making.
It’s been clear for a while that the people in charge of Twitter are so hopelessly in love with the competition that they’re willing to sacrifice the few unique aspects that make the platform so enjoyable in order to replicate them. It began with the introduction of the “algorithm” timelines – Twitter’s poor attempt to shove content and ads in its user’s faces. No one asked for it. Nobody wanted it – yet there it was. Curated content, delivered in such a way as to effectively stifle live tweeting. Sure you could opt out – but it took the fun out Twitter (and new users were opted in without knowing what it was).
The situation reminds me of the removal of Vine – another hammer blow to the community. The microblogging site was adored by its community, a chance to give new talent a place to exist. Yet Twitter was unable to effectively monetize the platform. Turns out that ad buyers struggled to find an effective way to stick their fingerprints all over the product – so Twitter canned it. Even as users howled in horror. Even as the platform had legitimate use on the website and beyond – the people at the top didn’t care. It’s that coldness – that’s bizarre approach to how the company has handled their actions which has made the website such a mess in recent times.
These are examples of how poorly managed Twitter is right now. It’s amazing that the company is so determined to shove new features down users throats when the reality is that these new features don’t benefit any user. Who wants to be told what they should see? Who asked for more characters on a platform that is all about concise posts?
All this against a backdrop of genuine problems. Twitter’s failure to address the existence of racism, homophobia and hate groups on the platform has created an open environment where hate is spread. It’s no secret that many who use the platform to voice opinions are hit the hardest – but without the proper tools for recourse, how can things get better? Instead of focusing on branding, why not deliver features users actually want?
Why not deliver a proper help center? Why not make it easier to report users who spread their vile hate? It seems Twitter doesn’t have an answer to these problems – highlighting the hilarious silliness of their announcement today. They pay lip service to the wider problems, instead of trying to find more ways to cram ads and generate revenue. Their silence on these issues speaks volumes against a backdrop of frustration.
The awkward part in all this is that the current direction of Twitter is only going to end up driving away users. So desperate to remain relevant in 2017, Twitter is failing to understand what made the platform so endearing. It’s a failure that suggests Twitter’s higher-ups have no clue what they’re doing. So out of touch with the users, they insist they speak for – today’s announcement is another nail in the coffin for the microblogging website.
Sooner or later, Twitter will have to address these larger problems – or risk following countless other social media projects into the realms of forgotten trends. No one needs another Facebook clone.
As for 280 characters – I just hope users are ready for rambly posts.