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.
This offered me the "guest" experience. I was able to browse Twitter and, crucially, follow accounts.
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™.
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.
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.
As you can see, the names of the accounts you are following is stored in a pipe delimited format.
But, if you're as skilled a h4x0r as I am, you can just edit that cookie and follow many more people.
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.