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Twitter Gets a New Welcome Mat

The company's first major update in three years is designed to make the service friendlier to newbies.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Twitter pleased Wall Street with its latest user numbers, but it wants many, many more. How can it get them?

One tactic: A new way to greet first-time users who show up at

Twitter has freshened up its sign-up page and sign-up process for newbies. If this seems like a small thing to you, product manager Christian Oestlien is here to tell you otherwise. It’s a process that took “months,” he said, and is the company’s “first major update in three years.”

The reason this is important is that Twitter has repeatedly said that it needs to do a better job of getting new users to get immediate value out of the service. And for the last few months it has also been telling investors that it has a much bigger audience than its 271 million active users — it has many more people who see Tweets somewhere other than Twitter, but either don’t come to the service itself, or visit but don’t sign up.

The new changes are presumably supposed to address both issues.

Twitter has tweaked this stuff in the past, so it’s hard for me to tell you precisely what’s changed and what hasn’t. That said, among the differences I’m seeing today:

Twitter’s homescreen now features a rotating set of images taken from recent Tweets, along with their original captions and links.

It’s a subtle move but it makes sense to me: It gives new users an immediate understanding of what they might get if they sign up — like a chance to see what an astronaut sees from space.

More significantly, Twitter looks like it has improved its methods for finding people for you to follow as soon as you sign up.

As recently as late last year, Twitter’s onboarding process seemed skewed toward shoving celebrities in front of your face. When I tried it out this morning, I got a much more nuanced list, which still includes celebrities — but also not-as-famous people I already know, even though I didn’t tell Twitter I know them. (Hi Ina! What’s up, Ryan!)

You can see Oestlien discussing some of the changes with Josh Elman, a former Twitter product exec who’s now a VC at Greylock, here.

This article originally appeared on

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