01 Dec 2011
Why Twitter Really Works
There are various reasons why Twitter has grown and continues to be popular, but one seems to be often overlooked.
When the 140-character limit is discussed, it’s almost always from the writing side: how it forces users to be succinct, suits trivial chat, etc. And it’s sometimes seen as a vestigial annoyance from the days of SMS, with the lack of such a limitation touted as an advantage for other platforms.
But it’s actually on the reading side that the enforced brevity has a huge positive impact. By keeping updates short, Twitter allows a user to follow at least a hundred or so active accounts without it becoming too burdensome, spreading the social net wider, giving a better overview of activity, allowing consumption in tiny chunks, and making it harder for a small minority to flood activity streams. I suppose you could say that Twitter offers broad insight by forcing everyone to be shallow.
(I don’t think I could follow hundreds of people actively using Google+; if even just a dozen or so regularly posted long updates it would unbalance the whole stream and make it feel awkward, especially on a mobile device.)