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Twitter gives its home page a makeover to grab new users

Visitors to the social network can now explore a selection of tweets without having to register or log in, as Twitter tries to get both passive and active users to interact more frequently with its service.

Twitter hopes its new home page will entice more people to become active users of the site. Above: Twitter HQ in San Francisco. James Martin/CNET

Twitter has redesigned its home page to attract new users by letting them check out "top tweets" in various categories without first having to register or sign in. It's in part an effort to convince Wall Street investors that more people use the social network than the Street thinks.

"Today, we're making a big change for the many millions of people who visit every month who don't log in but still want to know what's happening," Twitter said in a blog post Wednesday.

Previously, visitors to the social network's home page received a brief greeting and a prompt to log in. Now they'll see two columns of photos labeled with category headings such as Politics, Pop Artists, Business News, and Cute Animals. Clicking a category takes them to a real-time feed of tweets on that topic from actual users. These "top tweets" are drawn from "some of the most popular accounts" on the service, Twitter said in its blog post. The category pages also include sign-in and registration fields.

Twitter has been trying to convince Wall Street that it has a larger audience than just the monthly active users it publishes numbers about. And it's also trying to increase the number of active users. During its fourth-quarter earnings report in February, Twitter said around 288 million people actively use the service monthly. Wall Street had been hoping for about 295 million such users.

The move is part of the social network's ongoing effort to find new ways to get both passive and active users to interact more frequently with its service. To that end, it has released new features to increase activity on mobile devices, including Periscope, an app that lets people stream live video.

Lately Twitter has also focused on creating features to lure in people who don't use its service regularly. That includes making it easier for media companies to include tweets in their stories and broadcasts, creating curated lists of suggested feeds for new users, and now the redesigned home page.

The new home page, available today in the US, will roll out to other countries later, Twitter said, without announcing specific dates.