When is a tweet not a tweet?
Twitter’s announcement it is to allow tweets of up to 10,000 characters, made by Jack Dorsey using a tweet with a long screenshot of text on Tuesday and anticipated by Re/code back in September, has been interpreted by many as a move that will strip Twitter of the brevity that has come to define it.
But allowing texts of up to 10,000 characters is the next natural step in a long process of evolution that through updates and acquisitions, has seen Twitter offer users more and more features: first it was GPS positioning, then images, then links, video… today a tweet is just about anything except a 140-character message, and is often simply a way of passing on other content in a different format.
What’s more, increasing numbers of users are already sending what are in effect, much longer messages, simply by fixing an image of a text in a tweet, which is pretty much how Twitter intends to allow users to send lengthier texts: through an attachment that is accessed through the tweet. So don’t worry, our timelines are not going to become epistolaries: instead, we’ll see an extract from a text that can be clicked.
The strategy has already come under fire, with some pundits calling it a walled garden within which Twitter can manage access to content created by other sources. Personally, I can’t see why I would bother writing my blog, for example, directly on Twitter, rather than continuing to simply tweet the news that it’s out there on my Spanish-language site, or here on Medium. Why would I post something on Twitter, which is characterized by rapid content turnover.
That said, people who do not have their own blog or do not publish regularly on a website might find this new feature useful. Similarly, businesses that want to release a press note, a format increasingly seen as antiquated (by me at least), may find it handy, particularly if they put the bi-directionality of the service to good use, along with Twitter’s analytics.
I can’t see anything negative about Twitter’s decision to become a content archive, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a bid to create a walled garden. I don’t see the wall: if Twitter has been about one thing over the course of its life, it is openness and standardization.
If Twitter decides to allow native content and is able to monetize it effectively, I think this could be a good thing. After all, it’s just another way to try to lower the entry barriers to content creation for those that want to use it, as well as being a reasonable approach to breathing extra life into a social network that for reasons we’ve mentioned before, is finding it hard to grow. The format hasn’t been announced yet, and we’ll have to see if it capture the imagination of users, but as a way of trying to offer additional value to people without their own website or who don’t want to use it for whatever reason, I don’t think it’s such a bad idea.
(En español, aquí)