In what’s being described as a “substantial change to Twitter”, the social network’s Product Lead, Kayvon Beykpour has confirmed the platform’s trialling a feature allowing users to post tweets, which disappear after 24 hours.
Called ‘fleets’, users will be able to view them by tapping on a profile picture, but they can’t be liked, retweeted or replied to publicly. Instead – and very much like the ‘stories’ feature across Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram – others can react to ‘fleets’ via direct messages.
The move from Twitter comes as they try and make things a bit more user-friendly and attract new people. Essentially, ‘fleets’ are being brought in as a solution to the apparent main reason why users don’t tweet in the first place – because they’re said to feel uncomfortable how ‘public’ the platform is.
People often tell us that they don’t feel comfortable Tweeting because Tweets can be seen and replied to by anybody, feel permanent and performative (how many Likes & Retweets will this get!?). Many of us can probably empathize with this: https://t.co/LW2xWlctZi
— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) March 4, 2020
You only have to look at the replies to Kayvon Beykpour’s announcement to see Twitter being ‘public’ isn’t its only issue.
Many users are instead unhappy with the amount of online abuse that has been able to swarm our newsfeeds in recent years. So, will ‘fleets’ really solve that problem?
Keyboard warriors seem happy to post exactly what they are thinking – and more-often-than-not go unchallenged by the platform itself. Surely, if somebody actively chooses to tweet something hurtful and damaging, then they should be held accountable?
However, if a ‘fleet’ containing defamatory information disappears within mere hours and it hasn’t been screen-grabbed or saved, then how can they be held responsible?
So Fleets can be used to send deniable abusive messages ?
— Another Person (@rdgresident) March 4, 2020
On the plus side, ‘fleets’ could prove to be the holy grail for those who have spent years calling for an ‘edit’ button to be added to the site. Kim Kardashian’s among those to have said it would allow for mistakes to be fixed without the tweet having to be deleted altogether.
Yes, it’s annoying when we notice – hours after posting that we accidentally wrote ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ – and by that point, the tweet has already racked up some good engagement. But, when the President of the United States is one of the platform’s many very active users and can instantly tweet to over 74-million users, there are concerns an edit button could lead to confusion if a widely shared tweet was then amended to contain contradictory information.
For me, this is why the whole idea of ‘fleets’ seems odd.
At the start of 2020, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, told Wired it was unlikely he would add an option to edit tweets because the social media channel, “…started as an SMS, text message service and as you all know when you send a text, you can’t really take it back. We wanted to preserve that vibe, that feeling, in the early days.”
So, with tweets, you “can’t really take them back”, but now your ‘fleet’ will disappear off the face of the earth after 24 hours. I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s a bit jarring?
The testing of ‘fleets’ will run for a few months in Brazil before Twitter decides whether or not to roll them out elsewhere around the world.
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