Twitter retires Fleets, its disappearing content feature

15 Jul 2021

Image: Twitter

The feature will disappear on 3 August after just eight months of operation.

Twitter is retiring its Fleets feature on 3 August, just eight months after introducing it.

Fleets were launched on 17 November 2020, allowing mobile users to post images, video or text or to share tweets, all of which would disappear after 24 hours. This mirrors the ‘stories’ features found on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and many other social media platforms. The company described Fleets as a “low-pressure way for people to talk about what’s happening”.

In a blog post, the company announced that it “[hasn’t] seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped”. It said that it had aimed for the new feature to be particularly appealing to people who don’t post content on the platform, but found that it was predominantly being used by already active users.

The company said it would be keeping the space at the top of users’ Twitter feeds where Fleets are currently located for Spaces, its live audio chat feature. The company also plans to incorporate several of the photo editing tools from Fleets into the tweet composition tool.

Additionally, Twitter said it was examining what could be learned from its use of full-screen ads as part of Fleets, which was the first time such ads appeared on the app.

Ilya Brown, Twitter’s vice-president of product, said: “We’re evolving what Twitter is, and trying bigger, bolder things to serve the public conversation. A number of these updates, like Fleets, are speculative and won’t work out. We’ll be rigorous, evaluate what works, and know when to move on and focus elsewhere.

“If we’re not evolving our approach and winding down features every once in a while –  we’re not taking big enough chances.”

A survey of Twitter users conducted by Variety and YouGov in late January, more than two months after the launch of Fleets, found that more than half still hadn’t heard of the feature.

Fleets and Spaces are part of a slate of new features the social network has been trialling and launching over the past year, including many focused on monetisation. In February, it launched Super Follows, allowing users to charge followers for access to specific content. Last month, Twitter Blue was announced. This is a subscription service that gives users access to additional features such as the abilty to undo tweets and special display customisation.

These monetisation features have been part of a strategy to reduce the company’ reliance on advertising revenue. In May, Twitter acquired news subscription start-up Scroll.

The platform is likely to see more new features in the near future, as Twitter has ramped up its spending on research and development.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin