Twitter - then called "Twittr" - was launched in March 2006, over a year before the first iphone. But even then, it had a 140-character limit, as the standard length of a SMS or text message is 160-characters. The founders of Twitter thought it best not to overwhelm the phones with 3 or 4 staggered, delayed, or even partially missing messages. By choosing 20 characters less there is room for the sender's username. This way, anyone receiving a tweet would get the whole tweet in a single text message.
Because of this character limit there are limitless posts about shortening down what you want to say and how to say it effectively. Maybe Twitter’s just a fad and when it does pass, as fads do, the 140-character message might not as it’s too well-suited to mobile screens. As such it is relevant to discuss how much you can really say in a Tweet.
Different languages lead to a difference in how much you can say in 140 characters. Some languages require more characters to say simple phrases. For example for Germanic and Romance languages the character limit has given way to all sorts of creative abbreviations. The English variants of this are well known (u for you, 2 for too, and so on). Other languages demonstrate the same capability: Portuguese speakers tend to write "vc" for "voce" (you) and "qdo" for "quando" (when). But for Chinese and Japanese, in which one symbol can represent an entire word they can say a lot more in 140 characters.
A British IT consultant hooked Twitter and Google Translate to compare the different lengths once they were translated into English. Of course, any computer translation is at best a rough estimate, but it still has interesting results. He found that the Japanese tweets he surveyed averaged out to 260 English characters each.
In recent news, Twitter is cutting back on what types of content will use up its 140-character limit. When replying to a Tweet, @names and a URL at the end of Tweets from attaching photos, a video, etc. will no longer count toward the limit. They also enabled the Retweet button on your own Tweets. This way you can easily Retweet or Quote Tweet yourself when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a good one went unnoticed.
Fun fact: There is no sentence in this article that exceeds the 140-character limit.