"'Twas here for but for a fleeting moment..."
In a surprising about turn, Twitter has announced that it's retiring Fleets, its own take on the Stories format, after less than a year of its existence.
we're removing Fleets on August 3, working on some new stuff— Twitter (@Twitter) July 14, 2021
we're sorry or you're welcome
As noted by Twitter, Fleets will be around here for two more weeks, then they'll be no more, with Twitter instead looking to shift the focus onto its audio Spaces tool instead.
As explained by Twitter:
"We built Fleets as a lower-pressure, ephemeral way for people to share their fleeting thoughts. We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter. But, in the time since we introduced Fleets to everyone, we haven’t seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped."
Last month, when Twitter launched its initial test of Fleets ads, I noted that it was difficult to know whether the option would be worthwhile for brands, because Twitter hadn't provided any official data on Fleets usage.
As it turns out, there was a reason for that.
The closest we ever got to any insight into Fleets use was via the company's most recent earnings call in late April, in which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to an investor question about the performance of Fleets, explaining that:
"We're seeing some new activity and new demographics utilizing Fleets. [We launched Fleets] to solve the problem of people not wanting to Tweet because they feared it staying around too long. And for that use case, it is working very well. And then it certainly has taken on -- it certainly has seen a different audience than we normally see. But we still have much to learn and a lot to figure out in terms of like where it goes from here."
I guess it eventually learned that no one else really cared too much about Fleets, with Twitter noting today that Fleets are mostly being used by people "who are already Tweeting in order to amplify their own Tweets and talk directly with others". So it's basically being used as a free amplification channel, and not really adding to the broader tweet experience.
Given this, it's good to see Twitter taking decisive action, while Twitter also notes that it'll be taking the lessons that it's learned from Fleets and applying them into new areas.
Among these new elements will likely be updated camera options to better enable full-screen visuals, and full-screen ad formats, while Twitter also says that it'll use the top of the timeline space to further promote in-progress audio Spaces, as it looks to capitalize on audio engagement.
So you'll still see those profile bubbles along the top bar, they just won't be Fleets anymore.
It's interesting to also note that, over the past couple of weeks, Twitter has experimented with showing users Fleets from users that they don't follow, and highlighting related Fleets when you expand certain tweets. As it turns out, these may have been last-ditch efforts to either save Fleets, or to get more usage data for its future projects.
Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour has taken a philosophical approach to the demise of the option, noting that the decision to retire Fleets reflects the company's ambitious approach to product development.
"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."
That's at least partially true - in many cases, it's better to know that something doesn't work, rather than sit on your hands and wait. Which is particularly true in the fast-paced social media eco-sphere - and Fleets certainly was a fairly big bet, taking up prime real estate in the app and adding a whole new, and different, tweet functionality.
But in the end, users just didn't warm to Twitter Stories.
And thus, we farewell Fleets, once and for all.
[Insert final 'Fleeting moment' joke here]