If you're not using Twitter yet, you may feel as if you've missed out. Twitter has not only tipped the tuna, but by some estimations, it has already jumped the shark. Don't be put off by its excessive popularity with SXSW geeks or by the whining of Twitter haters who missed the fun. Twitter is an interesting and practical real-time messaging system for groups and friends. It's just not completely obvious how to get into the "club." So, here's a newbie's guide to this new platform. We don't cover every feature of Twitter, but this should help get you started.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online service that enables you to broadcast short messages to your friends or "followers." It also lets you specify which Twitter users you want to follow so you can read their messages in one place.
Twitter is designed to work on a mobile phone as well as on a computer. All Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, so each message can be sent as a single SMS alert. You can't say much in 140 characters. That's part of Twitter's charm.
Twitter is useful for close-knit groups (although there also are some fairly large mobs on Twitter). If you follow your friends, and they follow each other, you can quickly communicate group-related items, such as "I'm going to the pub on Fourth Street, come on along." Twitter is conceptually similar to Dodgeball but is simpler to use.
If you enter items into Twitter, they can be private, so only friends you've authorized can see them. Items can also be made public, which means anyone who knows your Twitter ID can read and subscribe to them.
Twitter is free.
Continue reading to learn how to get started, hook up your mobile, send your first "Tweet," follow friends, and direct Twitter. We also show you some advanced features and Twitterers worth following.