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Twitter, Inc. Exec Drops Hints About the Future of Its 140-Character Limit

By Daniel Sparks – Oct 8, 2015 at 10:45AM

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The social network company will do whatever it takes to take things to the next level -- even if it means changing something at the core of Twitter.

It was just less than a week ago when Twitter (TWTR 2.76%) announced an end to its nearly four-month long search for a new CEO. Electing co-founder Jack Dorsey to lead the company, even as he remains CEO at Square, investors are trying to piece together the direction the company is heading in next. With Twitter's product lead Kevin Weil and co-founder and board member Evan Williams getting some time in the press this week after the CEO announcement, one thing is becoming clear: Twitter is willing to make some big changes.

TWITTER HEADQUARTERS. SOURCE: TWITTER. PHOTO BY AARON DURAND (@EVERYDAYDUDE).

Beyond 140 characters
The most controversial topic that came up in conversations with Twitter executives this week is whether or not the company would be willing to remove its 140-character limit on tweets. While Weil didn't directly say it's time for the 140-character limit to go, he hinted in this direction.

"In my opinion, great product teams should always be challenging their own assumptions. And that's something that we're doing everyday, and Jack is encouraging us to do that," Weil said during an interview at the Code/Mobile conference this week in response to a question about the future of the 140-character limit.

Weil continued to give an example of how the company has changed the Twitter timeline during the past year to first show what its algorithms believe are the most relevant tweets to users instead of simply the last tweet. Then he added, "[W]e're not shy about changing something that's at the core of Twitter."

When asked point blank about how long the limit could be extended to, Weil said, "There's a power in brevity, and so there's a way to balance that, we think. ... I'm not making any announcements today, but we have a lot of great things that are going to be coming in the future."

Throughout the interview, Weil made it very clear the company is revisiting all of Twitter's fundamental assumptions.

Jack's "editor" role
The openness to change reflects Jack's style of leadership at the company. The CEO, who in his earlier days reportedly had a problem with delegation, is now known for his skill in empowering his team. Weil said Jack is thinking of himself as an editor, asking questions, providing direction, and keeping an eye on the big picture.

In his editing role, Jack is encouraging his team to question everything about Twitter. By encouraging fresh thinking, Jack is hoping Twitter can be more innovative, going forward.

"We have to focus on being bold and being innovative and Jack is ready to unleash that," said Twitter co-founder Evan Williams in a CNBC interview this week. "I think there is so much potential in Twitter that we haven't yet unveiled."

What's the timeline on big changes under Jack's leadership? "Months," Williams said. "Not years, but not weeks."

Twitter Moments. Image source: Twitter.

The company has already introduced one new key product under Jack's leadership. Announced the day after Jack transitioned from his interim CEO position to a permanent position, Moments packages trending stories into a media-rich beginning, middle, and end format in order for users to be able to more easily find and follow the stories that matter to them. The company hopes Moments will boost value for existing users and also help new users discover greater value from the platform from the start.

The biggest challenge for Dorsey and his new team will be reinvigorating the company's slowing user growth. Will bold changes do the trick?

Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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