What is Twitter for? Is it a network of – for want of another term – ‘normal’ people who discuss amongst themselves? Or is it a way for all of us to slavishly follow the rich and famous?
I ask this because, for the first time for a while, I created a new Twitter account (for a little project in Copenhagen, but that’s incidental), and the signup process surprised me. The screenshot of the first screen after signup is shown below (click to enlarge):
Two things are extraordinary. The first is that there is no ‘Skip’ button – you must follow 5 people before you proceed. Secondly, the people it suggests you follow are all celebrities – Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake etc., all presumably having paid to have their accounts displayed here. There is also no effort whatsoever to target this – Twitter has my IP address because it defaults in the settings to setting Denmark as my location. Why can it not even show some potentially relevant local content?
Now, of course you can get around this, by just going to twitter.com and not completing the signup process. But the very nature of the network is called into question by this signup process. When I joined Twitter in November 2008 the network offered a blank canvas you could fill what you wished. Now it seeks to push you ever more down a line that it can monetize, and that means a less reciprocal, more follow-the-stars kind of approach. I’m not a fan.