Why the new Retweet Symbol is FAIL

(If you don't use Twitter, you will not understand the lingo I'm using here. Simply ignore this post. Oh, look, a monkey!)

When people retweet others, they're mostly prefixing their tweet with RT @someuser:. When I woke up today, I noticed that the German Twitter Elite (represented by @kosmar) decided to break this tradition and use the symbol ♺ instead. There's an article about it, saying that it's cool because it's one character less and gives new Twitter users instant context of what the symbol means. Since it seems that I can't comment on this site (or maybe they blocked my comment because it contained dumb Mac user, I'm writing my reply here:

Too bad that this is actually one byte MORE than "RT", because it's a Unicode character, and its UTF-8 representation are the three bytes 0xe299ba. And, you know, even if Twitter says "140 characters", it's actually "140 bytes (butthewebinterfacecountscharacters, andanglebracketscountas4bytes)". That being said, the character is not available in SMS, except when you use Unicode messages, but then each SMS has, iirc, 70 instead of 160 characters. Plus, you mobile phone's font will most likely not have the character available at all, as will most of the PCs, so newbie Twitter users may see nothing at all or a strange character surrogate box. That's not what I'd call instant context.

Consider this idea dead on arrival. Its advantages are zero, except for maybe looking 1337. (Or, if you want, like another dumb Mac user who doesn't care about compatibility and has no idea of the internal workings of a computer.)

(Update: it seems as if angle brackets finally count as one byte, not four for >, so we could maybe just use that. It's even ASCII.)

Erstellt: 15. 1. 2009, 16:56:00 (CET)
Geändert: 15. 1. 2009, 17:45:21 (CET)
Tags: English Twitter retweet Unicode UTF-8 encoding Mac bashing