Twitter and Medium Announce They've Invented Email

By Annalee Newitz on at

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

Today’s big news in Twitter features was that the company would at last be relaxing its 140 character rule for Direct Messages (DM). 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. Sachin Agarwal on the Twitter dev blog writes:

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. This whole “sending an email through Twitter” thing is a major breakthrough.

But it’s not as much of a revolution as what’s happening a few San Francisco office-blocks away at publisher 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 emphasises “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.