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According to Why 140 characters and how to write more the limit on tweets was 140 because the SMS message limit is 160. They wanted tweets to be sent in one text (with space for username).

However, if a limit was not already in place, what would be a good limit?

Would 140 still be chosen? Have their been studies on the balance of enough space to get your point across and a short enough limit to keep updates quick and easy to read.

Would it be better for example to limit on number of words?

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closed as not a real question by ChrisF, Benny Skogberg, JohnGB, Vitaly Mijiritsky, Ben Brocka Nov 26 '12 at 14:38

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
The more important question to ask is why do you need to limit things. Twitter has a special appeal but for the majority of content their model doesn't make sense. It's unique on purpose. –  Ben Brocka Aug 30 '12 at 11:57

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Friedhelm Hillebrand, who set the 160 character limit for SMSes in the first place, took his cue by analysing the average lengths of typical kinds of 'short' messages:

Alone in a room in his home in Bonn, Germany, Friedhelm Hillebrand sat at his typewriter, tapping out random sentences and questions on a sheet of paper.

As he went along, Hillebrand counted the number of letters, numbers, punctuation marks and spaces on the page. Each blurb ran on for a line or two and nearly always clocked in under 160 characters.

Still, his committee wondered, would the 160-character maximum be enough space to prove a useful form of communication? Having zero market research, they based their initial assumptions on two "convincing arguments," Hillebrand said.

For one, they found that postcards often contained fewer than 150 characters.

Second, they analyzed a set of messages sent through Telex, a then-prevalent telegraphy network for business professionals. Despite not having a technical limitation, Hillebrand said, Telex transmissions were usually about the same length as postcards.

-- LA Times

Twitter's tremendous success seems to confirm this analysis!

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