Before today, I knew: the reason Twitter was originally limited to 140 characters was so it could be transmitted over SMS (which was limited to 1120 bits, or 160 7-bit characters).

TIL: the reason SMS is limited to 160 7-bit characters is because Friedhelm Hillebrand, who was the chairman of the non-voice services committee within the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), found that a) the average sentence was <160 characters, and b) that matched the average postcard.

@noelle So texting is literally only good for a single sentence by design.

🤷 Great.

@catgirl @noelle Twitter isn't even good enough for an average-articulated sentence

@noelle hah, I thought they just used the free space in the unused signalling paths when no telephony data was being sent, and therefor had only 160 7-bit chars to work with.

@polychrome @noelle Perhaps that happened first and then later when or if the method/situation changed they didn't change it because of the first reason?

@noelle I remember when you could get and send Twitter updates via SMS like you could subscribe to a Twitter user's feed and get each update as a text.

@chikadee And when you could send a DM just by starting your tweet with "d <username>"? Ah, the joys of getting old. ;)

@noelle I was an early adopter to tumblr but didn't get it so I forgot I had set it up to just link my Twitter account and post those so when I went back to tumblr and wanted to use that old account I had like 3k posts to delete and I can't believe I did all of that by hand. Although to be fair tumblr's code wasn't a massive mess.

@FakeRobotGamer @noelle yeah I started using it in 2008 after I turned 18 and moved mostly to interact with my favorite Podcaster at the time.

That's such a cool rationale though!
Thanks for sharing :)

@noelle After each of these, you need to be like "Thank you for coming to my TEDtalk, feel free to check out my Patreon"

Because this shit is goooold

.@noelle now I kinda want to see the Average Postcard, in its own little domed plinth next to the Kilogram.

LB: I wonder how Twitter would have developed differently if it had not only stuck to the 140 character limit, but also enforced it even more strictly?

I once read an article arguing that Twitter should never have implemented replies as an official way to link two tweets, because that paved the way for notification hell and endless threads.

Instead, people would have to message others directly -- if they weren't following you, they wouldn't see your @. No one else would, unless following both.

@noelle Neat!

It could've been longer, but not by much! :) SMS had to run over the same SS7 MAP that all the other mobility features used. *Total payload available for MAP is represented as one byte*.

After the required params, I think the UI is hard-limited to 200 bytes. Something like 15 (?) of the UI are taken up by more metadata. Some room is also needed for UDH, though I can't remember if that was originally in 03.40 or came along later.

It was a strange time but they made it work!

@noelle and they still refuse to fix that bug to this day...


@Elizafox @noelle Yeah, a German engineer using 7-bit storage is of itself a sign of... issues... with the idea that it was really designed for a sentence/a postcard first, rather than designed to fit into a given space, given that regular German text would require shifting to an extended character set under 7-bit storage.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Elekk: Gameing and Other Delightful Pursuits

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!