Twitter's Secret "Guest Mode"


Twitter has an undocumented feature which lets you follow accounts without being logged in. Here's how I found it, and how you can use it.

My crappy old TV has a crappy old web browser on it. One boring Sunday, I decided to see which websites worked and which didn't on a 6 year old browser. Anything using LetsEncrypt was unavailable due to "security certificate issues" - but Twitter worked. Sort of.

As soon as I opened the page, I was redirected to mobile.twitter.com/i/guest - don't try it on your regular browser, it won't work there.

Press the follow button prompt on the website.

This offered me the "guest" experience. I was able to browse Twitter and, crucially, follow accounts.

Twitter's guest mode displayed on a TV.

The temporary guest account doesn't show up in any follower metrics, and you can't interact with the Tweets. But for a read-only experience, it's useful. There are, of course, some more limitations.

Secret Agent Man

As I mentioned - this doesn't work in most regular browsers. You need to change your User Agent to something that Twitter doesn't recognise. I went with "Lynx". Or, you could just use the Lynx browser all the time like I do. Because I'm Old-School-Kool™.

Disorder

Tweets aren't ordered in a timeline like the regular experience. You see a dozen of one user's tweets, then a dozen of the next user's, and so on. A slightly frustrating experience.

My tweets followed by Adele's tweets

Limited Success

By default, Twitter shows you a selection of Verified accounts to follow - but you can follow whoever you want. Well, you can follow up to four people!

Yup, in this limited mode, you can only stalk 4 strangers before Twitter hits you with weird error messages about your browser not being supported.

Me Want Cookie!

The secret lies in the cookies.

Technical details of a Twitter cookie.

As you can see, the names of the accounts you are following is stored in a pipe delimited format.

guest_timeline_users=TwitterMusic|LBuckingham|StevePerryMusic|edent

But, if you're as skilled a h4x0r as I am, you can just edit that cookie and follow many more people.

Now what?

I've no idea if this legacy mode is still intended to be there - or if it has just been forgotten about. I couldn't find any documentation or mention of it. I don't think there's anything particularly nasty a malicious user can do with it.

It's an odd little curio - and probably only of interest if you have an ancient browser but still crave tweets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.