Making your first Twitter account often isn't a great experience. Even after all these years, the service still comes across as nebulous to many, sending them out into the world with a new account, a sparsely populated timeline, and little idea of what to do next. Now, Twitter is trying something much better: it's testing out a revamped sign-up process that automatically fills a new user's timeline with tweets to make sure that they actually have something to read. Twitter announced plans to introduce this "Instant Timeline" last year, and now The New York Times reports that Twitter has started testing it out with a small number of people on Android.
It apparently works pretty well if you have contacts on Twitter
To use Instant Timeline, Twitter reportedly checks over a person's phone contacts to see who they know that's already signed up. It'll then look at the accounts that those people are following and pull out ones that it believes will be relevant to the new user. When the new user loads up Twitter, their timeline will be filled with tweets from these accounts. Twitter's recommendations will slowly leave the timeline as they begin to follow more people on their own.
The Times got a chance to try out Instant Timeline and appears to have come away quite satisfied with the results. The tool managed to find journalists and news outlets that the author actually follows, and it also inserted some comedians and celebrities that he felt were relevant enough. Unfortunately, Instant Timeline also gave him Sports Twitter, but that's unavoidable even with manual curation.
If Twitter's tests on Android are successful, Instant Timeline should eventually roll out to all new users. That's likely to be a big help. If Twitter can automatically pull together tweets that people want to see, there's a good chance that new users will come back after signing up and have a better understanding of how to use the site. Making the service more accessible should also lead to more users — something that Twitter would very much like to see instead of the slowing growth it's had lately.