Should Twitter let you post more than 140 characters, include more metadata in tweets, or include embedded images?
Two prominent internet voices, Dave Winer and Robert Scoble have both recently posted their views on how Twitter should improve it’s core product. Dave Winer proposes that using the basis of SMS as a reason for not expanding the core capabilities of the service is wrong, and that Twitter is really SMS 2.0.
Meanwhile Robert Scoble uses the claim Twitter’s web traffic is flat to suggest 14 ways for the service to become more engaging. Number 1 is to remove the 140 character limit and to allow photos and videos in line to ‘communicate something more than the metaphorical equivalent of a grunt.’
The question is whether either of them is right – from a more technical standpoint, I think there’s a valid viewpoint that Twitter could expand the data accompanying a tweet in some way to give more value when it’s referenced by other services.
But I think it’s an incredibly bad idea for Twitter to lose the 140 character limit, and allow inline photos and videos.
For starters, a service already exists for that, called Facebook. Scoble references it as a more entertaining service for that reason, but I wouldn’t agree. Twitter is fun and engaging in creating conversations and quick observations – for both work and pleasure, whereas Facebook is a way to catch up on all the intimate details of your close family and friends.
It also ignores the myriad of ways that people interact with Twitter already – if I want the basic web service on PC or mobile it’s available. If I want greater adaptability, there’s Tweetdeck, Seesmic or many of the other clients. A huge number of clients are available to cater to almost every need – therefore removing the problem of Twitter attempting to do it. Every change made by a major social network is analysed endlessly, and attempting to please everyone results in something which pleases noone.
Increasing the scope of Twitter also infringes on the Twitter ecosystem of third party businesses – embedding images instantly removes the need for the likes of Twitpic, and suddenly increases storage costs for Twitter.
And suddenly you lose a unique network, and instead you have a Facebook also-ran.
So now – I don’t think we should lose the 140 character limit just yet.