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October 19, 2012

Slate: Twitter for people who don't like Twitter

(Continued)

Now, there's a special landing page for NASCAR fans, twitter.com/#nascar, that features a carefully curated list of drivers, announcers, commentators and influential fans. That way, new tweets appear in the feed at a manageable pace, and you can peruse them without feeling like you're in a NASCAR race yourself. Twitter has since repeated the NASCAR experiment on a larger scale with a succession of other televised events, from the Olympics to the presidential debates.

Unlike Twitter's homepage, you can access these event pages without logging in to the service. That's important, because Twitter has always struggled with its barriers to entry: You have to sign up, figure out whom to follow, figure out what the heck they're talking about once you follow them, and then figure out whether you have anything to add to the discussion — knowing all the while that whatever you say could be held against you by your friends, your employer or BuzzFeed. These were the site's biggest obstacles to mainstream popularity way back in 2009, when Slate tech writer Farhad Manjoo wrote that the average Internet user shouldn't feel compelled to join the then 2 1/2-year-old service. They remain its biggest obstacles today.

Even if Twitter realizes its wildest second-screen dreams, it will probably never have as many users as Facebook. For all its virtues, double-screening can be cumbersome and distracting, and if there is actually someone else present with you as you're watching, you'll be hard-pressed to even acknowledge them, let alone enjoy their company.

Yet second screens may only be an intermediate step. If Twitter succeeds in integrating itself thoroughly into the viewing experience, the site could eventually end up converging with TV itself, so that you both watch and tweet on the same interactive screen. Then we'll all be Twitter users, whether we want to be or not.

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