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RIP Fleets: Twitter’s Snapchat copycat sails off into the sunset

Fleets have flown by the wayside

Twitter has announced it will eliminate Fleets, its one-time foray into ephemeral media introduced last year. Here’s what you need to know.

Twitter announced today it is sunsetting Fleets, the Snapchat and Instagram Stories-like feature that allows users to post content that disappears after 24 hours. The decision comes less than a year and a half after the feature was introduced to the platform.

“We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter,” said Ilya Brown, a vice president of product, in a blog article published Wednesday. “Although we built Fleets to address some of the anxieties that hold people back from Tweeting, Fleets are mostly used by people who are already Tweeting to amplify their own Tweets and talk directly with others.”

Social media experts aren’t especially surprised by the decision. “I believe Twitter's reasoning for eliminating Fleets is simple — the feature was a failure,” says Sherman Standberry, co-founder of social media agency Lyfe Marketing. “Most Twitter users did not use the feature at all. It did not add any value to them, which makes sense, because Twitter users already speak their mind through normal Tweets. The fact that Fleets ‘disappear’ was pointless because tweets are easily lost in Twitter's newsfeed anyway.”

The company admits that debuting Fleets in the first place was a big leap of faith, as the ephemeral media space is already crowded. In a Twitter thread posted Wednesday, Kayvon Beykpour, a product lead at the company, said, “Just to make a point of our internal philosophy clear: big bets are risky and speculative, so by definition some of them won’t work. If we’re not having to wind down features every once in a while, then it would be a sign that we’re not taking big enough swings.”

The feature will be phased out starting August 3. At the top of their timelines, users will instead find active Spaces, the platform’s audio chat rooms. Spaces is Twitter’s answer to the lockdown hit Clubhouse.

“Ultimately, new features on social media are like shelf space in a retail store,” Standberry says. “If people are not buying the products on the shelf, you need to replace them with better products. I think Twitter is aware that their users are not using [Fleets] and is eliminating it because it is taking up valuable real estate that they can use to promote other features in the future.”

And he may be right: Twitter says it’s got other plans in the works. Through its Fleets experiment, the company discovered that users enjoy sharing media on their timelines, so it has said it will test new updates in the Tweet composer and camera that will allow users to more seamlessly post photos and videos. These will include full-screen camera, novel text formatting and GIF sticker options.

The decision to eliminate Fleets comes just weeks after Twitter concluded tests on running vertically-formatted ads in Fleets. The company is now examining how else it may be able to innovate advertising on Twitter, per the blog post.

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