Earlier this month, Facebook made an announcement that only the geekiest of us seemed to notice. OK, there were a lot of us who noticed it - just not as many of us actually said anything about it as you think would.
Facebook announced it expanded the number of characters allowed in status updates to 63,206 from 5,000. Those who did talk about it online pointed out how it most likely resulted from Google’s new social network Google+‘s no character limit (though there is said to actually be one – close to 100,000). Some have asked – and I guess I’m joining their ranks – if there’s really a need for that much space when giving your friends an update about what’s going on in your life…
Slow down there for a sec and take a broader look at what’s going on. Do you remember why you set up your account in the first place? (You do have a strategy, right?) If it was to help make people aware of what’s going on, this change may help. If it was to help drive traffic to your website where you have additional ways to track where folks are coming from and what’s of interest to them whether they “like” or “+1″ your status update, then this could be bad.
Another way to look at it is like this – would you expect anyone who follows your updates on those sites to read all of this there (possibly resulting in rants like this one), or would you expect them to visit your website and flip through a couple of virtual pages instead?
The change really means more than just a “battle” with Google+. The ability to share blog-length posts as status updates means they’re keeping an eye on sites like Tumblr, Posterous and WordPress.com. Facebook and Google+ want you to consider them first and think of your built in audiences for posts and news. It doesn’t hurt that you’re able to subscribe to people’s walls now even if they don’t follow you back.
The battle is about truly becoming an online hub for their users – the first and only place they really need to go for information. Facebook’s recent acquisition of Gowalla and Twitter’s exclusion of Foursquare in their redesign suggests that the fun is just beginning.
Use the extra space with a great deal of caution. Just because you’re able to write the equivalent of 1/9 of a novel doesn’t mean you should. I’ve personally got a problem with sharing that much information on a platform that you don’t completely control. Don’t worry, I’ve got the same problem with Google+’s 100,000 character limit too.
Yes, you can download archives of your data from most services nowadays – and even if you run your own site you should be constantly backing up your stuff anyway. There’s just something about knowing that your site’s down because of something you did instead of someone’s potentially arbitrary decision that worries me just enough…
What do you think?
Photo: Race #2. tedkerwin/Flickr