Twitter has an eye on your location — and is testing ways to share it with other nearby users. The short-messaging service appears to be testing a new timeline for its mobile app, called “Nearby.” It shows recent nearby tweets, whether you follow the tweeter or not.
The “Nearby” timeline has appeared occasionally in recent days on the phones of users who allow Twitter to see and use their location. The apparent test could be part of an effort to prompt more users to share their location. That would make the network more locally relevant, in the manner of Foursquare. It also would allow Twitter to offer advertisers more precise targeting capabilities.
Twitter has allowed users to add their location to tweets since 2010. But that feature is turned off by default and must be turned on by the user.
The new experiment appears to try to solve the problem that the “discover” tab and search function have struggled to do: organize the millions of tweets into something digestible and locally relevant for each user.
Brian Wieser, an analyst at the Pivotal Research group, applauded the test. “Maybe they’ll come across something that will be incrementally interesting to some advertisers,” he said.
A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment on the “Nearby” service, but said Twitter experiments frequently as a way to provide a better user experience.
The upper half of the “Nearby” screen is a map where a blue dot pulses over the user’s current location. The bottom half shows a timeline of recent nearby tweets, with icons on the map noting their locations. Clicking on an icon pulls the corresponding tweet to the front of the screen.
As you move around the map, more picture-linked tweets pop up in a manner similar to the way shopping carts spring up when searching for grocery stores on Google Maps. Seeing the tweets unfold in real time could allow users to understand neighborhood events, such as why a bunch of fire trucks just flew by.
Users can opt out of the location sharing function. On an iPhone, the control is under the “Location Services” tab under the “Privacy” section of the phone’s “Settings.”