Twitter’s update to lists makes it a more compelling alternative to Google Reader

Twitter announced that it has raised the limit on the number (and members) of lists that you can create:

Update to Twitter lists: You can now make up to 1,000 lists (up from 20), and each list can include up to 5,000 accounts (up from 500).

Twitter lists aren’t anything new, they’ve been around since 2009. Lists provide the ability to follow someone without actually having to follow them. Rather than have your timeline full of tweets from various news sources, joke accounts and retweet marketing, you can keep separate lists for accounts like “celebrities” and then add users to that list instead of following them.

The benefit of lists is that your timeline remains uncluttered but you can easily view a list to keep up to date with the users you’ve added. Better still, you can even subscribe to lists created by other users just like following another user.

So what does Twitter’s news that they’re raising lists mean for users? For most users, not much. But for those users who are still looking for an alternative to Google Reader, Twitter just entered the ring as a serious replacement.

Twitter as an RSS replacement has been discussed before and for many, it’s already a good enough replacement. Lists would seem like the perfect feature to accompany this train of thought so Twitter upping the limits today makes perfect sense and the timing seems too coincidental.

Many news sites and blogs such as The Verge, Engadget, Daring Fireball and, of course, Sparsebundle all have Twitter accounts that tap into the site’s existing feed and post tweets as soon as new content is published. If you’re a heavy RSS user then you might find your Twitter timeline overloaded very quickly. Instead of following these accounts, just add them to a separate list which you can look at whenever you want.

Upping the limits on the number of lists and how many members each list can have not only provides a better way of organising how you follow these types of news outlets but also reminds people that lists is a feature that actually exists. You could probably mirror your existing RSS folder structure quite easily by creating a list for each folder and adding the Twitter account for each site who’s feed you’re subscribed to.

What Twitter needs to work on though is that lists is still an often-overlooked feature simply because many 3rd-party clients can’t do anything besides view them. You either have to use one of the few apps that can manage list memberships (such as Tweetbot) or suffer the horror of using the Twitter web interface.

I think lists is a great feature, personally, but I fail to use them because they’re quite clunky to use and the Twitter apps I use have only basic support for viewing them.

If more 3rd-party apps can provide list management support then Twitter might be the perfect Google Reader replacement for some people.