Twitter Warms to SMS Tweets with Fast Follow

Twitter on Aug. 10 added a Fast Follow feature that will let anyone in the United States get tweets on their phone. Twitter wants to eliminate the barriers to entry to better compete with Facebook.

Twitter, whose tweeting roots lie in SMS messaging from mobile phones, August 10 said it added a Fast Follow feature that will let anyone in the United States get tweets on their phone, even if they haven't signed up for Twitter.

Previously, mobile phone users had to be Twitter members to see tweets from the handset. No longer, but those who want to get followers or appear in a user's list must create a Twitter account.

Twitter wants to eliminate the barriers to entry on its service to attract more users. The company leaders are ambitious and would love to amass the type of following Facebook enjoys.

The leading social network boasts more than 500 million users worldwide. For Twitter, which has more than 100 million users, to approach that number it needs to broaden its exposure on the desktop and mobile Web.

"This is a simple way for people to get information they care about in real-time," wrote Leland Rechis, the user experience lead for Twitter's mobile team.

"For example, let's say you want to get Tweets from New York City's office of emergency management (@NotifyNYC). Just text 'follow NotifyNYC' to 40404 in the U.S."

Rechis wants users to test out Fast Follow by typing in @username they see in a store or on a billboard while on the go.

Fast Follow without an account is available in the United States only for now; Twitter is working with its carrier partners to expand the feature's reach abroad.

Twitter has done a lot on the mobile front in 2010, adding applications for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices and accelerating its location-based services for smartphone users.

Rechis, who was directly involved with the Twitter for Android app, said users can also manage SMS tweets from their desktop computer.

When users see other users on, they can hover over their name or avatar and click on the phone icon. Whenever that person tweets, the user will get it as an SMS message on your phone.

Users may also manage alerts or turn text messages from Twitter on or off. To set an alert, users may send "on @username" or "off @username" to 40404.

Similarly, to start and stop receiving Twitter texts, users may send the command "on" or "off" to Twitter, or manage this from the setting page.