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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND FOLKESTONE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DOVER

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

English Teacher - From October Half Term

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher requir...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week