Dear Mr Dorsey — You’ve betrayed me!
Mr Dorsey, after all we’ve been through I’m furious to wake up and see you’ve changed my world and you didn’t even ask.
Over the past decade Twitter has become such a huge part of my life. I’ve met friends, I’ve told friends, like so many others we’ve invested so much time trying to build this environment with you and now you’ve gone and thrown that all away.
Who is that actually for?
When Chris Messina introduced the hashtag on August 20, 2007 he did it to enrich the experience for everyone on the platform.
Like so many others he was hacking together solutions to help us navigate this unique environment and build something amazing.
Today’s decision wasn’t made for him, and it certainly wasn’t made for me.
Only last year you said that the 140 characters was a ‘beautiful constraint’ and that Twitter ‘would never lose that feeling.’ Well today it lost that for me.
I was once told the most beautiful story of the origins of your business, founded on the desire to empower those who’ve never had a voice — particularly those in the developing world.
To achieve this you recognised the barriers presented by technology, and chose the 140 characters to allow people to text their message ( 20 characters for the user handle and 140 for a beautiful moment of brevity) and from this altruistic foundation — Twitter was born.
Is today’s decision made with such an altruistic vision?
One of my favourite books, A Beautiful Constraint, even lists your business as one of the great success stories and when I view the wonderful ‘we can if’ framework I often imagine how you may have used similar thinking to solve the problem that you faced in those early days.
But what was behind this new decision?
You’ve outlined the 5% of tweets that embraced the 140+ characters.
Is this who it is for? The masses?
I’ve felt the frustration when I’ve only been a few characters over the limit, but do you know what it did? It forced me to produce better content, articulate my message more concisely, be more creative and embrace the beauty in brevity. Ultimately this improved the experience for everyone.
This constraint is what made Twitter such a special place.
It felt different. It looked different. The people were different, but in so many ways they were the people you wished you’d always known.
We chatted, we watched shows together, we challenged each others thinking, and when the stars aligned we had the chance to meet in person and our new Twitter families were formed.
I can speak on behalf of this family and let you know this change is not for them.
I’ve got no doubt you’ve done extensive research and gathered endless insights, but for me this is so much more foundational than whether only 5% of tweets went over 140 characters and 2% of tweets went over 190, and everything to do with ‘who is this for.’
It’s so tempting in any business to add another feature, or integrate a new technology, or copy your competitors in the hope of opening up a new market segment, but you should never lose sight of those who’ve helped you get there.
For the millions of Twitter faithful who’ve helped you grow this community, this is about so much more than the number of characters in a tweet.
Today’s you’ve changed our playground. Today you’ve changed our home. You’ve changed our unique little Twitter world and you’ve done all of this without our permission.
Today’s I’m feeling disillusioned with your platform and I can’t help but feel like you’ve betrayed me.