Since its inception in March 2006, only one type of post has been possible on Twitter: a tweet. As of today, the 280-digit item is supported by a short-lived South American cousin: the fleet.
This is what Twitter calls these new, more volatile tweets – posts that appear in a separate timeline above the main timeline for 24 hours before disappearing. In other words, yes, Twitter is finally making Snapchat stories and the implementation looks almost identical to the Instagram version of the feature.
"Twitter is used to talk about what's important to you," said Mo Aladham, product manager for the Twitter group, in a blog post. "But some of you tell us that you find it uncomfortable to tweet because tweets are public, feel permanent, and have public counts (retweets and likes). We want to enable you to engage in new conversations with less pressure and more control beyond tweets and direct messages. That's why we're testing fleets in Brazil today, a new way to start conversations with your fleeting thoughts. "
To create a fleet, tap a plus button that appears in a new home line with short-lived posts above your home timeline. From there you can enter up to 280 characters of text or add photos, GIFs or videos. As soon as you click on "Post", your fleet will appear in a series of posts with a low ranking. Fleets of people you follow and follow you back are shown first, with the most recent published first. From there, you will see posts from other accounts that you are following.
You cannot like or retweet a fleet.
You can respond to fleets with response emoji similar to those recently introduced in direct messaging. You can also reply with text, which opens a DM with the person you are notifying.
Fleets, like everywhere else, stories disappear after 24 hours.
I know what you think: "It sounds like a story!" Yes, there are many similarities to the stories format that people know. There are also some deliberate differences to focus the experience more on sharing and seeing people's thoughts. pic.twitter.com/OaGYZpChcN
– Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz), March 4, 2020
Twitter has reportedly been working on short-lived posts for more than a year. In October, the company's product manager, Kayvon Beykpour, told The Verge that he was interested in exploring the concept:
I consider this to be another dimension that is really important for some customers: certain circumstances in which you want to speak to people, but you are not sure if you want it to last forever. So I think that as a dimension to focus on, as a specific customer problem, I am very interested in figuring out how we can give customers more control.
As stupid as the name may be, fleets offer Twitter the opportunity to gain some of the ground it has lost to Instagram, Snapchat, and other social platforms over the years as short-lived messages become more popular. It's not just that the tweets disappear automatically (although that helps). The story is that stories seem to encourage a different way of sharing – more disposable, looser, more intimate. The main feed is for polished public appearances, and stories are more about idle chatting.
At least that's what happened elsewhere. Twitter will certainly bring its own folds into the format, provided the fleets roll out wider.
I assume that they will. In addition to the test in Brazil, fleets are currently being tested internally by employees. And last month, Twitter brought along Chroma Labs, a seven-person startup founded by former Facebook and Instagram employees and a tool for creating short-lived stories.
Anyway, fleets! This is the real life.