What Are Twitter Lists & Why I Think They're a Big Deal

Twitter has begun rolling out Twitter Lists to a limited number of users, starting yesterday (Oct. 16, 2009). When I noticed several of my followers discussing this, I went to check my own twitter profile and was presented with the image above. I did not notice the "don't tweet about it yet" message until after I'd already done so, and a follower pointed this out to me who also had lists enabled. Soon thereafter, tons of Tech blog's were posting about it as well, so I am going to take the liberty to follow suit.

First of all, I am very excited by this feature and look forward to the near future when all users have this enabled. In short, I've wanted a native Twiter feature such as this for a while now, since I feel in love with Tweet Deck & Nambu's "Groups" feature within their Twitter clients. I've sort of limited myself to following around 400 people because I've found that after much more than that, my Twitter stream becomes very hard to keep up with without checking it constantly throughout the day. When I used to use very-unstable-and-crashy Nambu and then very-bloated-and-inelegant-non-mac-like Tweet Deck, I loved the ability to group people I follow for easier filtering of their content. Brizzly, the web-based Twitter client that I recently got an invite to, has a 3rd party feature built into their app which enables similar functionality. After using all three of these clients, I've found myself using Tweetie for Mac once more (and eagerly awaiting Tweetie 2 for Mac). According to Tweetie's developer, Loren Brichter, Tweetie 2 for iPhone and the upcoming Tweetie 2 for Mac will both support the Twitter Lists feature nativley. So what are Twitter lists?

This is an example of a list I made last night. This list simply contains all people that I follow on Twitter whom I know to live in the Washington D.C. area.

As you can see on the right, the amount of people on this list is the amount of people this list is following. The amount of followers this list has, is basically the amount of people who've subscribed to this twitter list.

At first, I was hesitant to press that Follow button as I was not sure what would happen. Would I suddenly start following this lists of 200 tech bloggers that Scoble created? Alas, no. It simply subscribes you to that follower list. Those followers' tweets do not automatically appear in your twitter feed unless you follow the members individually. Subscribing to a list simply saves it in the right-side-column of your twitter profile page. When you click one of these bookmarked lists, you can then see the tweets of the people who are on the list.

Twitter Lists can be public or private. While I keep a private list of 'essential' Twitterers that, when on a busy day, these are the only people I really care about not missing any of their tweets. This list has around 20 people on it. So as to not hurt anyone's feelings, it's a private list. No one can know that they didn't make the cut. Public lists, however, are why I think this will really take off. Follow Friday? Twitter's Suggested Users List? Both concepts are now obsolete. Now anyone can play the role as social curator and group interesting people together in any way want all while sharing these lists with anyone who may want them. This is going to be big, if for no other reason, providing an easy mechanism to share followers.