If you’re on Twitter and often use the micro-blogging platform during the day, then you must have by now seen a big announcement from Twitter or a follow-up reaction to this big announcement. Yes, I’m talking about Fleets, a version of the popular Snapchat and Instagram Stories that Twitter introduced in November last year. And, within a year, Twitter is killing Fleets (RIP Fleets 2020-2021).
The news for many was meme-worthy, and I could see some Twitter handles that I follow, almost celebrating the news that Twitter was retiring Fleets on August 3. While I was not a fan of Fleets ever, and I have just posted one Fleet till now for the sake of testing how the reach is and other parameters because that’s part of my work. However, I was impressed by Twitter coming out and admitting that something didn’t work, and it makes no sense to continue keeping it on the service.
It is a smart move by Twitter to act quickly on a feature that it spent time and resources on but didn’t work, rather than keeping it around for vanity purposes. And Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other companies need to learn this from Twitter.
What was Twitter Fleets, and why was it introduced in the first place?
For people who have been on Twitter for years may not find it too hard to tweet out their thoughts without thinking or predicting what will be the reaction to it. But Twitter, at the time of launching Fleets, stressed that tweeting could be uncomfortable for some people, especially because it’s a public platform, and there’s pressure if someone’s tweet gets no retweets or likes at all. So, Fleets was the company’s attempt to build a low-pressure and ephemeral way to connect to others on the platform.
Fleets was designed for mobile use on Android and iOS apps, and they appear as circles in the row below the menu icon and above the timeline. The best is it doesn’t get retweets and are not open to public replies. However, to make it slightly personal, you can receive hearts or thumbs up on your Fleets.
Twitter’s Ilya Brown, Head of Product, Brand and Video Ads, in a blog post, has put down some thoughts from Twitter’s perspective and said, “We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter. But, in the time since we introduced Fleets to everyone, we haven’t seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped.”
While I agree entirely with what the team at Twitter was thinking while testing and rolling out Fleets but what they probably missed, to understand was that Twitter isn’t Instagram, where people don’t think twice before posting a Story about what food they have just had to what place they are going and more. At the end of the day, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform where people may vent about what they hated or loved about something rather than promoting something on top of someone’s timeline.
Twitter’s Fleets appeared above the timeline, and by default, it was something that was hard to skip until you got used to it. The good thing about Fleets was it allowed users to share thoughts, and after 24 hours, they’d disappear from view.
In my opinion, it was a great spot to share your personal in-the-moment thoughts with your followers free of public reactions. The best was only the user could see who viewed their Fleets without fear of what retweet or likes count was. However, Fleets didn’t appeal to me because there were other mediums where I could do this, and most importantly, Twitter was the last place where I wanted to share where I just had lunch or plan to have dinner. It cannot be as personal as maybe Instagram Stories can be.
What’s next after Fleets for Twitter?
Twitter has more in store for its users, and the good thing is that the team at Twitter is taking its learnings from Fleets. The company confirmed its next move in a blog where it said it would create other ways for people to join the conversation.
One thing that I even noticed (one who barely used Fleets on the platform) was that Fleets is mainly used by people who already tweet a lot, and the top of the timeline kind of amplified the reach.
“We’ll explore more ways to address what holds people back from participating on Twitter. And for the people who already are Tweeting, we’re focused on making this better for you,” Twitter said in a blog post.
Fleets had one popular thing, and that was people loved fleeting about great photos or videos. The good news is that Twitter will test updates to tweet composer and camera to incorporate features from the Fleets. This means you can expect to receive the full-screen camera, text formatting options, and GIF stickers that were popular on Fleets to make it to normal tweet composer.
Fleets appear on top, and Twitter will replace Spaces, which is the company’s hot take on Clubhouse to host live audio sessions.
Well, Twitter just did the unthinkable, in my opinion. Killing a feature that was introduced not even a year back is a bold thing to do, but this also sets an example for others like Facebook, which keeps pushing out new and sometimes useless features that are barely used. Similarly, Google has multiple features and services, but some are crazy popular while others are waiting for a date to die. A good example is Google Allo, which was launched alongside Duo but was retired in 2019, laying the groundwork for Google Messages and RCS.