Why Does Twitter Have a 140 Character Limit?

I’ll admit it…I am not good at Twitter.

Rarely do I know what to tweet or when to tweet. Even when I come up with what I consider a good tweet, I often forget to use it.

I also realized that I have no concept of how many words make up 140 characters.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Twitter, the social media service limits your posts to 140 characters (letters, numbers & punctuation). You can post less than 140, but you can’t post more. No ifs, ands or buts.

For some reason I assume 140 characters allows for way more words than it actually does.

On numerous occasions I have come up with a funny, witty or interesting tweet only to find that I have gone far over the 140 character limit. Frustrated, I figure the only way to get it under 140 is to randomly cut out words and move others around. After about 5 or 6 drafts I finally get under the limit only to find that my new acceptable tweet makes no sense.

Here is a recent example…

What I wanted to tweet  –

“I just took an online survey that asked the question, “To which race do you most identify?” That’s an odd way to ask that question. Shouldn’t they just have asked, ‘What race are you.’ I wanted to answer Caucasian or marathon.

If you add it up, I am way over my character limit. After moving and cutting out words, here’s what I ended up shortening it to…

Just took a marathon survey. I am odd and white.

While that is technically not untrue, it is not really want I was trying to say.

So why does Twitter impose such a strict limit? Let’s find out in this week’s Wonder Why Wednesday.

Why Does Twitter Have a 140 Character Limit?

According to Media Bistro, the constrictive 140 character limit was created to be compatible with SMS messaging. SMS (short message service) text messaging was created to let users send short messages to one another.

The worldwide standard length of SMS is 160 characters. The founders of Twitter decided to stay within that limit so that when tweets were sent via phone, the messages would be received in whole and not split up across multiple messages. 140 characters was chosen to allow for 20 characters for the username of the sender.

I guess that makes sense, but it doesn’t help me become a better tweeter. However it does help explain why I am also a bad text messenger.

(Photo credit: Flickr)