Lately I seem to have been finding about all the major happenings in the world on Twitter, so I was not surprised when one of today’s big stories was the first Tweet on my timeline. I was, however, surprised that I hadn’t heard of this story before – and that the news I was finding out on Twitter was actually about Twitter.
There is buzz that Twitter is doing away with its 140 character limit and replacing it with a larger one: 10,000 characters or approximately 1,111 words. When the news broke, the Twittersphere descended into fury. How could Twitter even consider changing such a fundamental part of their brand?!
The first thing many people failed to realize is that Twitter isn’t entirely getting rid of the 140 character limit. With the new changes, which could come in a few short months, users could post Tweets longer than 140 characters – but on timelines the Tweets would show up in a 140 character summary, meaning the old struggles of running out of characters and having to omit grammar (and subsequently cringing if you’re a grammar aficionado) is still very real.
The second thing many people failed to realize is that Twitter isn’t making this change for the fun of it. Despite its staggering popularity, Twitter is struggling to stay relevant against other social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. One reason for this is that Twitter is often used to share links which brings users to outside websites. There is by no means a lack of native content on Twitter (aside from countless parody accounts which repeat the same jokes and memes). This being said, outside linking was clearly enough of a threat that Twitter is responding by allowing users to post the things they would otherwise link to – blog posts, for example – directly on their site.
Yesterday for an assignment in business class, I read an article about the demise of Blockbuster. I always assumed that Blockbuster failed solely because of Netflix, but they actually almost merged with Netflix (back when Blockbuster was the more popular of the two companies). In it’s final years, Blockbuster went through several CEOs who lost sight of the purpose of the company; but they also failed to adapt to a changing environment and ignored the rise of the Internet and streaming services.
One of the questions I had to answer about the article asked about factors that could cause Netflix to meet the same fate as Blockbuster. Initially when I read the question, I was confused. Netflix and Blockbuster were in the same market, I thought, but that was about the only similarity between them. Netflix was a powerhouse in the industry.
Then I did some research, and I realized that Netflix has been struggling recently. There are a plethora of online streaming services offering lower prices – Netflix has had trouble raising their prices – and better selection, a common complaint about Netflix (especially in Canada when compared to the American selection). Blockbuster was once what Netflix is: seemingly unstoppable. And yet when Blockbuster refused to adapt, it failed spectacularly.
Such could be the story of Twitter. This new change could very well save them and allow them to compete better with other social media. But if the masses remain critical, and consumers fail to grasp the point of 10,000 characters on a platform that rose to success because it promised succinctness and brevity, Twitter could be in trouble. They’re already risking making a move that doesn’t fit with the very premise that made them successful.
When I first made a Facebook account a few years ago, I thought it was the only social media I’d ever need for my entire life. But then I downloaded Twitter. And Snapchat. And Instagram. And Pinterest. And Tumblr. And Google Plus. And the list goes on and on. As a teenager, I’m essentially right in the middle of the social media craze. Apps trend, become wildly successful, and then flatline almost as quickly as they rose to fame (remember Flappy bird?).
I’m positive that next year, I’ll be using at least one – if not more – social media platforms that I don’t use today, that maybe don’t even exist today. Twitter is competing with competition that hasn’t even been created yet. This could either be their downfall, or their saving grace. At this point, only time will tell.