Twitter Fleets – I think we can all agree they didn’t last long. Twitter’s announcement to remove Fleets came just 9 months after the feature launched, primarily due to it failing to engage less active Twitter users to get involved on the platform as they had hoped.
In this blog, we will explore what Twitter Fleets were, why exactly Twitter decided to remove them and the growth and potential of Twitter Spaces.
Twitter Fleets were essentially Twitter’s version of ‘stories’.
For anyone who is not familiar with the stories concept, they are a function on social media platforms in which the user can upload a photo or video in a narrative, running-sequence format that disappears after 24 hours. It allows users to share what is happening in real-time with their followers.
Stories were first launched by Snapchat in 2013 and were found popular by users. It wasn’t long before Instagram followed suit launching Instagram stories in August 2016, which now has over 500 million active daily users, with 86.6% of Instagram users posting stories and 70% of users watching them.
Fleets were introduced by Twitter as a lower-pressure, ephemeral way for people to share their fleeting thoughts. Twitter users were able to upload images and videos from camera roll or record new ones, share existing tweets, write text, add stickers, emojis and gifs, and most importantly just share the thoughts that they might have not wanted to encapsulate with a written tweet.
That thing you didn’t Tweet but wanted to but didn’t but got so close but then were like nah.— Twitter (@Twitter) November 17, 2020
We have a place for that now—Fleets!
Rolling out to everyone starting today. pic.twitter.com/auQAHXZMfH
The video below demonstrates the concept of Twitter Fleets and how users created them.
In July 2021, just 8 months after its initial rollout, Twitter announced that it would be saying goodbye to Fleets. They reported that although they hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable getting involved and joining in the conversation on Twitter, however, they didn’t see the increase that they hoped.
we're removing Fleets on August 3, working on some new stuff— Twitter (@Twitter) July 14, 2021
we're sorry or you're welcome
They addressed that Fleets were mostly used by people who were already tweeting rather than encouraging those who are more redundant on the app, to become more active.
It’s important that Twitter acted on removing a feature that did not perform as they had hoped, as opposed to keeping it around; something that other companies could learn from.
In a series of tweets, Kayvon Beykpour, Product Lead at Twitter, stated that “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.”
And 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.— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) July 14, 2021
Since Fleets were removed from users’ profiles on August 3rd, Twitter has been looking at new ways to help users become more actively engaged on the platform and are exploring more ways to address what it is that holds people back from participating.
For those already active Twitter users who took advantage of the Fleets feature, Twitter has incorporated some of that popular functionality into its regular tweets. Now, users can customise their tweets with some additional camera-editing features, like different text formatting tools and GIFs.
The removal of Fleets doesn’t mean that the top of the timeline will be empty. In November 2020, Twitter also launched Spaces, which are live audio conversations directly on the platform that allows for open, authentic, and unfiltered discussions.
When someone you follow is the host, or a speaker of a live Space, a purple bubble will appear at the top of your timeline. Once joined, you can tweet or DM the Space, request to speak and react with emojis. Due to the nature of the feature, safety controls were implemented to allow the Space hosts to mute speakers, take away their mic or remove them entirely.
Twitter Spaces can be seen as a competitor to Clubhouse, the live audio conversation app that launched in April 2020, shortly after a vast majority of the world went into a lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Clubhouse provided a way for users to stay connected to groups of their friends, family and loved ones in a way that was a lot more personal and human than usual social media platforms, yet also a lot more private than video calls. Clubhouse reported its weekly user base reached over 10 million people in the year of its launch.
Twitter has been looking at ways that Spaces can be monetized for content creators. They recently opened applications for ticketed Spaces which allows creators to create exclusive live audio sessions for their audience, where they determine their own ticket price, which can be set as low as $1 and as high as $999.
Fleets may not have been one of Twitter’s most successful products. However, live, drop-in audio has gained large amounts of traction as a new social media format since launching, so, it’s no wonder why platforms such as Twitter have developed similar features for their users.