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Twitter toys with "Nearby" tweet timeline

People often turn to social media to connect with old friends rather than make new ones. But Twitter wants to change that with a new "Nearby" feature, which rolled out last week alongside new photo-sharing options.

The micro-blogging site added the ability to swipe between timelines, from "Home" to "Nearby" to various trending topics. It's not yet available for all users, though.

It remains unclear whether the tab will be a permanent addition, or is an experimental function, but the Wall Street Journal seems to think that the "apparent test could be part of an effort to prompt more users to share their location."

The move takes aim at services like Foursquare, and opens another advertising door for Twitter to more precisely target users, the Journal pointed out.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In September, Twitter reiterated its policy on experiments, saying that "we're constantly working to make it even easier to follow what you care about, connect with people and discover something new on Twitter."

This "experiment" includes near-real-time map updates which highlight blue-and-white cards, signifying other tweeters' recently posted photos. You can choose to scroll through a timeline of those messages — from users you may or may not follow — or click on a specific spot on the map for more details. The function seems, so far, to work only with location-tagged photos, not text-based messages.

This isn't the company's first swim in location-based waters: Twitter first announced plans for a location-based API in 2009, and rolled out the ability to add location to tweets in 2010. The social network continued its quest in June, when it acquired iOS app Spindle, which begged the question, "What's happening nearby right now?"

In June 2012, meanwhile, Facebook tested a new feature that let you discover new Facebook friends who were nearby, but Facebook later disabled it after fielding a complaint from startup Friendthem.