Whether playing a part in a tabloid scandal or a political uprising, those Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer seem inescapable. Even Apple gave Twitter the seal of approval earlier this month, with the announcement that the service will be integrated into the heart of iOS 5, the new iPhone software. For new users to the service, the first step is to head to the Twitter website and sign up for a free account. Your next step should be to download a desktop or mobile app, because they make it easier to scan through tweets, save your favourites, compile lists of users and share photos and links. Available for a variety of smartphones, the official Twitter app, also called Twitter, keeps things simple. It gives you four views to choose from: a feed of updates from the people you follow, replies to your tweets, an inbox for your direct messages (private messages not seen by everyone on Twitter — see panel), and a search page that also shows what topics are popular on the site. It’s more than sufficient for your first steps into the world of Twitter.