Cyberclinic: Twitter.com is getting lots of hype. But what does it do?

Even the most tolerant netsurfer might become exhausted by the "public timeline" at twitter.com, where thousands of people across the globe answer the simple question "what are you doing?" in 140 characters or fewer - either by tapping them in on a computer, or sending them in via text message. "I'm currently researching vulnerability management," is the news from a chap called Nathan, while "Browsing the web" is the somewhat redundant update from David in Toledo.

If you sign up, you can be notified of your friends' movements, thoughts and sandwich fillings - Twitter's founder, Evan Williams, claims that it will become "the pulse of society, the first place people go to share information".

But, for many of you, this distillation of blogging into a single sentence is the absurd culmination of social networking. "I'm tired of receiving invitations to join websites with 'friends' and 'updates'," writes Keith Hunt. "It's a perfect example," e-mailed Tom Wetheredge, "of how the internet can keep us too connected."

Twitter can fire off an SMS to your mobile whenever your friends update, which can feel like being electronically harrassed. In the US, where many have to pay to receive a text, mobile companies are coining substantial sums as a result and, even in the UK, sending updates to Twitter can be charged at a premium rate. As Josh N says, "It's fantastic if you relish a lack of privacy and enjoy running up phone bills. But in a good way."

If you cut your mobile phone out of the loop and check for updates online, the service is free, and can even be fun: the latest World Cup cricket scores appear regularly; someone has made a valiant attempt to keep users updated with London Underground delays; and even 2008 Presidential hopeful John Edwards is posting messages as he pinballs around the USA.

It's also the perfect receptacle for idle thoughts, according to writer Leila Johnston. "Blogs are over-run with tedious details," she writes. "Here, the dullards are gagged after 140 characters." One user, at twitter.com/rhodri, is finding it addictive - at least for the moment.

Diagnosis required

Next week's question comes from Alan Leigh:

"I'm confused by the range of new gadgets that allow you to watch TV without a TV. What's the difference between them all?" Any comments, and new questions for the Cyberclinic, should be emailed to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing