No need to follow: Twitter testing 'instant timeline' to show content for new users

Increasing user engagement on Twitter is perhaps one of the biggest concerns for the company right now and the social media site is now testing an instant timeline feature.

Increasing user engagement on Twitter is perhaps one of the biggest concerns for the company right now and the social media site has been testing an instant timeline feature which could boost this, says a report in New York Times.

According to the report, the feature was first discussed with Twitter's investors in November and the instant timeline will ensure that new users who log into the site will get great content, without having to follow hundreds of users. New York Times' Vindu Goel had the chance to check out the feature and notes that while it's not problem free, "it’s a huge improvement to the sign-up process". The sign-up process is still the same, though.

Once you're in, Twitter will ask for your smartphone contact list access, says the NYT report, and when that access is given, it starts scanning if these people have a Twitter account. Only problem in such a smartphone contact-list based process is that a lot of users might have people with no Twitter accounts on their list or their Twitter accounts might have different user names from what is saved in the smartphone.

"Twitter analyzes your contacts and uses information like who they are and who they follow on Twitter to guess which accounts and topics might interest you," says the report. As far the algorithm is concerned, the report notes it is fairly accurate and Goel was shown tweets of journalists, news outlets, and others.

However Twitter doesn't intend to replace the traditional follow-someone method with this instant timeline. According to Goel, "the instant timeline has frequent reminders urging you to follow people" as well as "built-in tutorials." The feature appeared to some new users signing up on Android phones last week, adds the report.

Instant timeline or not, Twitter needs to get its user engagement strategy right. WhatsApp, Instagram have already surpassed Twitter in terms of users, usage and growth. A recent report said that the Twitter population in India represents a much smaller share of social network users in the country, at 17 percent and just 8.8 percent of Internet users.

More recently Twitter has launched a slew of new features such as "While you were away," which shows iOS users a snapshot of popular or relevant tweets they have missed since the last time they logged in, and new group chat and video features as well. Twitter allows users to send direct messages to one another (both have to follow each other to send direct messages); the new feature expands that capability to allow shared exchanges involving as many as 20 people.

The Twitter application for smartphones was also modified to allow people to easily capture, edit and share videos. The new feature allows for sharing of videos 30-seconds or less in length.

With the instant timeline, Twitter is once again hoping to increase engagement on the site, as investors have been disappointed by the site's growth rate. Unlike Facebook (which is seeing increasing usage and mobile ad revenues), Twitter still faces serious issues when it comes to the numbers game. Whether or not an instant timeline will correct that can only be determined on how quickly the feature is rolled out to users across the world.

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