The one thing most people know about Twitter is that you can't ramble on: A 140-character limit keeps tweets short and the conversation fast-paced.
But now there are several media outlets reporting that Twitter may let users babble on a bit longer. "It's unclear what the product will look like, but sources say it would enable Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service," re/code reported on Tuesday.
The details are pretty murky and Twitter isn't commenting. But one plausible scenario, as described by Will Oremus over at Slate, may be a feature that allows users to publish full articles or notes to Twitter that would show up like the traditional brief tweets in your feed, but that you could click on to expand out and see the full thing without leaving the service.
If that's the case, Twitter may be embracing what I like to think of as the "slow content movement." Just as restaurants that emphasize locally grown, quality food rather than speed embody the slow food movement, there has been a quiet shift toward artisanal content in recent years. This move to longer form media embraces the concept that a sophisticated idea may take more words than social networks like Twitter allow - emphasizing detailed personal narratives and reported features.
Both established publishers and newer journalism start-ups are investing in creating meatier long-form stories to feed this latent appetite. Sites such as Vox and Buzzfeed put out lengthy features that dig deeply into topics along with quick posts that explain the news. And magazines are placing similar bets -- think Ta-Nehisi Coates's epic essay "The Case for Reparations" for The Atlantic last year, or the entire Bloomberg Businessweek special print and digital edition dedicated to a single 38,000 word Paul Ford piece explaining computer code this summer.
And there's plenty of evidence that the tech industry has recognized that consumers want more nuance and context in their online experience. The rise of Tumblr and its eventual purchase by Yahoo showed that there was room for services that provided a return to a more traditional style of blogging, albeit with social aspects built into the platform. And Medium, a blog-publishing platform from Twitter co-founder Ev Williams just raised $57 million in a round of funding that reportedly valued the company at $400 million.
Facebook, too, seems to want in on the action. Last week, the social network updated its Notes feature to a sleeker format that seems to encourage users to produce more substantive posts. And Facebook's Instant Articles approach to news also plays into the trend: It suggests the social network no longer wants to be a place where people merely link to -- they want the want to host the whole, in-depth package. Apple News, too, seems designed for a similar strategy.
There's an obvious potential business upside for tech companies aiming to build more traditional publishing tools into their services: It gives them more control over the way their users access content and a potential advertising revenue opportunity.
But if Twitter does give users more flexibility with the length of the content they can post, it could help it reach a wider audience. The service's character constraints led users to develop their own set of abbreviated lingo and norms that can be hard for new users to grasp.
The company would have to find a way to handle such a change without turning off loyal users who are attached to the way Twitter works. But there are plenty of signs that Twitter users themselves are ready for it: Users already find ways to evade character constraints by tweeting pictures of long blocks of text or stitching together extended thoughts using a so-called "tweetstorm" of separate posts.