Twitter and Medium Announce They've Invented Email

Illustration for article titled Twitter and Medium Announce They've Invented Email

As Twitter and Medium modernize for the new age known as the third quarter of 2015, they’ve both made announcements about the astonishing new directions the companies are taking. Both will be letting users have access to something extraordinary and magically powerful.


Today Twitter announced that the company would at last be relaxing its 140 character rule for DMs. Imagine sending a private message, of any length you choose, using the internet! That’s right. It’s going to completely disrupt the postal service. Writes Sachin Agarwal on the Twitter dev blog:

We’ve done a lot to improve Direct Messages over the past year and have much more exciting work on the horizon. One change coming in July that we want to make you aware of now (and first!) is the removal of the 140 character limit in Direct Messages.

I’m impressed. Sending email through Twitter is major breakthrough. My AOL account is getting jealous.

But it’s not as much of a revolution as what’s happening a few San Francisco office blocks away at Medium, where they’ve introduced a feature they’re elegantly calling “Letters.” Over at Medium’s blog The Story, Katie Zhu explains that the company is “building a new kind of media product” that emphasizes “continuity.” What will it be? Zhu writes:

We’re very excited to announce the launch of a new feature for Publications. We’re calling it Letters. We think it’s valuable, especially in today’s world of endless information streams, to remember the act of letter writing as an intimate form of communication.

So what is a Letter?

It’s a way of connecting with your publication’s followers and starting a conversation.

It’s delivered to the inboxes of all the people who follow your publication.

Wait, wait, wait ... hold on. You mean I can use Medium to send a letter? Digitally? To ALL THE PEOPLE?

So ... it’s email. Sorry, no, it’s bigger than that. It’s a listserv. I love the future.

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E-mail is exactly what Twitter was after. They don’t want people leaving their app to write a lengthy note in a proper email client or Facebook Messenger. It’s an attempt to keep users in the Twitter app. That makes sense to me. The Medium move? Not so much.