The New Standard?

Could Twitter become irrelevant? Ezra wouldn’t lose any sleep:

Farhad Manjoo thinks that Twitter should allow 280-character tweets rather than 140-character tweets. I think everyone should just move to Google+.

The 140-character limit is Twitter’s most obvious feature, and so it’s understandably assumed to be a major part of its success. And maybe it has been. But I think it’s at least as likely that Twitter improved on Facebook by realizing that the circle of people you want to follow and the circle of people who want to follow you are not necessarily the same but has been hindered by the 140-character limit, which makes most tweets uninteresting and renders it impossible to have real conversations.

I was optimistic about Google+ from the beginning, but mostly because I thought it would offer a chance to create the sort of private social network that Facebook originally was, but eventually evolved away from. But it turns out that Google+ retains Twitter’s appreciation of asymmetrical social networks: people can follow you without you following them, and you can choose to broadcast messages to them, and they can reply, and so on. I’ve been experimenting with this over the last few days and have been really surprised and impressed by how rich the resulting discussions are. It’s really highlighted the drawbacks of the 140-character limit and made Twitter a lot less appealing to me.

I agree. Google+ fixes Facebook’s key flaw, that a connection needs to be mutual and symmetric. Unfortunately, having two dominant social networking sites isn’t a good equilibrium for any of us. I embrace the heated competition, but hope it leads to a clear winner, or at least more differentiated uses. Xkcd pretty much sums up my concern:


On the Twitter side – I never fully embraced Twitter. I find that clicking on a link per post to read the related substantive content can be needlessly time consuming. But different people use Twitter in a lot of different ways. In fact, a friend I’ve discussed this with makes a good argument for its continued relevance: Twitter will probably continue to be superior in reporting real time events. Time will tell.

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