Twitter’s instant timeline will show you content without following anyone

You probably experienced something similar to me when you joined Twitter. You heard about it from a friend (or read a story online about this hot new microblogging site that everyone was using), so you rushed to sign up. You spent ages selecting the best username, creating a password, and yeah, you think you do want to add your phone number so you can text your tweets. And then? Silence. Suddenly it feels like you’ve arrived at the party a week early. Where was everybody else?

The “problem” is easily solved. Search for a few friends, some authors and entrepreneurs that inspire you, and maybe a couple of comedians or actors. Hit follow and your once barren feed is now populated with life, colour, fun photos, and interesting links. It’s not hard, but it is a barrier to engagement for new users, which is an issue for Twitter. You can’t enjoy Twitter right away because you have to set it up first, so maybe you won’t bother with it at all.

Twitter does offer you the option of syncing your contacts list so it can show you everyone you know who already has a Twitter feed, but then you have to sift through and select the people you really do want to follow. The company is hoping to tackle this problem with a new feature that will instantly populate your Twitter feed with content derived from your contacts that requires no following at all.

The New York Times reports that Twitter’s instant timeline, which it talked about late last year, has entered testing. Upon sign up, Twitter asks you for access to your contact list. Once you allow it, it will scan the list and analyze the people you follow, who they follow, and their interests. It’ll then serve you up a feed of content based on that information. If you’re friends with a lot of tech fiends, you might see content from MobileSyrup, Google, and Marques Brownlee. Similarly, if you love food, you can expect to see content from restaurants, food blogs and chefs.

The instant timeline’s goal seems to be discovery — here’s 10 people you might not think to search for on Twitter. According to NYT, the more accounts you follow, the less Twitter will rely on content gleaned from that initial scrape of information, so as you personalize your feed, you’ll see less irrelevant content.

No word on when this feature will launch officially, though NYT says it will be ‘within a few months.’ In case you were wondering, it seems this will just be for new users. It doesn’t sound like current users will be able to “turn on” instant timeline to help refine their current Twitter experience. Boo.