Twitter Ditching 140 Character Limit for Obama’s Town Hall

For the first time, Twitter will remove the 140-character limit for President Obama’s Twitter Town Hall—begging the question, is it still Twitter without the 140 character limit?

Twitter Ditching 140 Character Limit for Obama's Town Hall

The White House announced today that President Obama will hold the first ever Twitter Town Hall on July 6 at 2pm ET. In what has to be one of the highest-profile media events for the company, an accompanying webcast will be broadcast as “a discussion moderated by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey,” Reuters reports.

Twitter has set up a @TownHall handle, and questions are to be hashtagged #AskObama. But perhaps most notable on the technology side is that the Twitter Town Hall, which is to focus on the economy and green jobs, will remove the 140 character limit for the first time in the company’s history.

Only the president’s answers will be allowed to break the 140 character rule—rank-and-file Tweeters will still have to ask their questions in the usual 140 character style.

The move highlights the power and perks of being president—access to Air Force One and secret service to bring you milk and cookies any time of day or night is one thing, but getting the normative regulations of everyday technology to bend to your whim is a whole other level of impressive.

But beyond that, it begs the question: Is it still Twitter if it’s not 140 characters?

Twitter’s 140 character limit was originally designed to broadcast in real time to your followers the question, “What are you doing?” It’s since evolved from its humble beginnings to a medium for sharing links and organizing protests—Twitter even recently opened a Twitter Newsroom to highlight the service’s usefulness in breaking important news.

But the 140 character limit has always been a defining trait. As technology has evolved and given more of us access to blog and share thoughts on Facebook, most of us are usually awash in an over-saturation of media and input from friends. In a way, part of Twitter’s initially unforeseen value was in limiting the scope of people’s communication spectrum. The brevity imposed on Tweets has forced users to say what they mean in a short space. Some say this forced “linguistic economy” has played a major role in turning Twitter communications into a vital cultural stream.

Would President Obama be better off with the Twitter governor removed? Being able to expound at will may leave him open to the kind of verbose ambulatory non-answer politicians usually deploy when faced with a tough question.

With co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams having left the company just recently, Twitter Town Hall marks a serious coup for the remaining Jack Dorsey. But will his first high-profile media score divert the company away from what makes it great?

Tune in to #AskObama July 6 to find out.