In November during the company’s first Analyst Day, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo laid out the organisation’s plans for the future, with a number of interesting new features on the horizon.
One of these implementations was called Instant Timeline, and Twitter has started testing that functionality with new users this week.
“We believe that anyone should be able to come to Twitter and immediately feel deeply immersed in that world,” said Costolo.
One of Twitter’s biggest problems is retaining new users. The platform has more than 284 million active users but (by Twitter’s own admission) 2-3 times more people have signed up for or in some way used the service but didn’t hang around.
That’s a serious obstacle to growth. But when you think about it, it’s easy to understand why: when you first get there, Twitter doesn’t make a lot of sense. It has a much steeper learning curve than Facebook, and if the latter is your main social experience Twitter seems empty and confusing.
Indeed, when a new user signs up for Twitter it’s both over- and underwhelming. Their timeline is completely empty. They probably know that they need to be following other users to fill that timeline, but who? And how?
Enter the Instant Timeline.
When users register with Twitter on a smartphone the site asks for access to your contact list, which it then scans to find people who you know that are already using Twitter. That much hasn’t changed. Instant Timeline, however, takes it a step further, looking for common interests and themes amongst your friends, which it then uses to automatically populate your timeline with tweets from accounts that it believes you will find interesting.
This could include, for example, tweets from sports teams, news, food posts, celebrity musings and more. The Instant Timeline algorithm will do its absolute best to make Twitter as interesting as possible for you, right from the start. And you don’t even have to follow anyone.
No algorithm is perfect but if Twitter can get this even slightly right, Instant Timeline could go a long way to keeping new users on the platform, boosting membership and driving the company forward. All of which means more interest, more ads and more money — and a much-needed win for Twitter.