Twitter to create personalised timelines when people sign up

Planned feature will make the site less dependent on you choosing interesting people to follow

Twitter is testing out plans to automatically create a timeline for people when they join the service, avoiding the empty news feed that puts many users off, according to reports.

Twitter will pull information including data from your smartphone’s contact list to decide who to help you follow, according to a report from the New York Times. It already offers the opportunity to follow any of your contacts who are on the service — but Twitter will now analyse that data and generate a much longer list of people and topics that might be of interest.

For instance, if your friends tend to like food or football and follow accounts associated with them, Twitter will assume you do too and show you related accounts.

Twitter hopes that will make the timeline compelling from the beginning, without having to do the work of finding particular people to follow and populate the timeline.

The service was “eerily accurate”, according to Vindu Goel, the New York Times journalist who tried the service. While there were some problems — such as a lot of tweets related to basketball and tennis, which Goel said he wasn’t interested in — overall it was so good that he was tempted to drop his regular Twitter account.

It entered limited testing last week and will be rolled out more generally after that.

The company announced that it would create such a tool in November. “We’re also working on ideas such as an instant, personalized timeline for new users who don’t want to spend time cultivating one on their own,” Kevin Weil, the vice president of product, wrote in a blog post.

Many of the new features announced at the same time — such as videos within Twitter, group direct messages and a pop-up showing what has been going on since users last visited the service — have been added to the site. The personalised timeline is the last major feature announced in the post that hasn’t yet made its way to the service.

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