Twitter Unleashes ‘Fleets’ With 24-Hour Life Span, Offering Alternative to Permanent Tweets

Twitter Fleets
Courtesy of Twitter

Now you’ll be able to post stuff on Twitter without worrying that your spur-of-the-moment reactions and ripostes will come back to haunt you.

Twitter is launching Fleets — as in “fleeting thoughts” — to users globally starting this week. Fleets disappear from the platform after 24 hours. It’s already a time-tested concept in the social space: First popularized by Snapchat Stories in 2013, the feature has been copied by other platforms including Instagram and Facebook. Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17, Twitter will make Fleets available to select accounts before rolling the feature out more widely to everyone on iOS and Android.

The company first launched a test of Fleets in Brazil this March before expanding the feature to India, South Korea, Italy and Japan. Unlike tweets, Twitter Fleets cannot be retweeted or shared, liked or publicly commented on.

Twitter’s goal with Fleets, of course, is to boost the overall time users spend on the social service — by making people comfortable with sharing content more spontaneously. The company has found many users, especially those new to the service, are fearful of posting permanent tweets (which, even if they’re deleted, can remain cached or cross-posted on third-party sites or search engines).

“Instead of tweeting, people follow along silently or just lurk. We see people draft tweets and don’t send them,” Joshua Harris, director of design at Twitter, told reporters on a call.

Fleets create “a lower-pressure way for people to join the conversation,” Harris said. In initial tests of Fleets, Twitter users engaged more using the 24-hour expiring format than they would have using conventional tweets.

True, Twitter is years behind Snapchat and Instagram in adopting ephemeral, self-destructing posts. But that doesn’t mean the company has missed the boat. With Twitter finally in the expiring-content game, some in the entertainment industry are welcoming the Fleet format’s possibilities for boosting fan engagement.

“The fact that Fleets disappear from Twitter after 24 hours will spark a new wave of creativity and engagement tactics,” said J.D. Tuminski, VP of digital marketing at Def Jam Recordings. “Fleets adds a new tool to the social arsenal for our artists, enhancing their ability to share creative content on-the-go, post hot takes in real-time, highlight their fans, and more.”

Twitter Fleets can quote tweets with reactions and include text, links, videos (with a 30-second limit), GIFs or single photos. Fleets will appear at the top of Twitter account pages and visible to followers (but Fleets don’t show up in the timeline). Other users can reply to a Fleet via private direct message or emoji.

To share a tweet in a Fleet, you tap the “Share” icon at the bottom of the tweet and then tap “Share in Fleet.” To create a new Fleet, tap your profile image in the Twitter app, then select “View Fleets” to add a new one.

Additional features on Twitter’s road map for Fleets include the ability to attach dynamic stickers (such as polls or Q&As), sending audio-only messages and support for live video.

Meanwhile, Twitter is working on expanding other forms of messaging. After launching voice tweets this summer, in 2021 the company plans to introduce a transcription feature to make those accessible to hearing-impaired users. Initially available only on iOS, Twitter also plans to bring voice tweets to Android.

In addition, Twitter is testing out live audio “spaces” that let small groups of people talk privately with each other in real time (as on a conference call). It’s conceptually similar to the Clubhouse voice-chat app.

“We imagine these spaces to be intimate, very safe,” said Maya Gold Patterson, Twitter staff product designer. The company is designing the feature with the metaphor of “a well-hosted dinner party. Everyone should feel comfortable sitting at the table,” she said. Initially, the live audio spaces will be made available to marginalized groups, including people of color, Gold Patterson said.