Twitter wants a piece of that Stories action. 

The company announced today it will test a new, disappearing messaging feature in Brazil that has more than a passing resemblance to the format pioneered by Snap and later copied by Instagram. Dubbed “fleets,” as in fleeting, the text-based messages live outside of users’ main feeds and will disappear after 24 hours. Just like with Instagram Stories, to see fleets you’ll need to click on a fleeting user’s profile pic, which you’ll find at the top of your timeline (see the below example layout). 

While many people wish they could set their tweets to auto-delete after a certain amount of time — and some even use third-party services to accomplish that — fleets appear designed to get people to generate more content and spend more time on Twitter. 

“Fleets disappear after 24 hours and don’t get Retweets, Likes, or public replies,” explained Twitter group product manager Mo Aladham in a press release. “People have told us in early research that because Fleets disappear, they feel more willing to share casual, everyday thoughts. We hope that people who don’t usually feel comfortable Tweeting use Fleets to share musings about what’s on their mind.” 

You can see if people you follow have fleeted by checking the top of your timeline.
You can see if people you follow have fleeted by checking the top of your timeline.

There are some pretty significant distinctions between tweets and fleets that go far beyond just the latter’s ephemeral nature. While, yes, you can add images, videos, and GIFs to your fleets, no one can retweet them. What’s more, no one can reply publicly to them. Instead, any and all replies will take the form of direct messages. If you have open DMs, then anyone can respond. Otherwise, only your followers can. 

Importantly, Twitter says that “anyone who can see your full profile can find your Fleets there.” That means, as long as an account isn’t set to private, you’ll be able to see what its owner is fleeting — assuming you remember to go and check. 

Fleet fun.
Fleet fun.

When reached for comment, Twitter confirmed that it is keeping an eye on the test for any possible abuse. 

“If Fleets break our rules, we’ll take enforcement action,” a spokesperson wrote to Mashable over email. “We’ll maintain a copy of Fleet’s for a limited time after they are deleted to enforce any rule violations and so people can appeal enforcement actions. After that, they will be deleted from our systems.”

We followed up with Twitter to determine its plan, or lack thereof, to expand fleets beyond the Brazilian iOS and Android Twitter app but received no immediate response. The press release notes that, depending on the results of the test, the company may or may not expand it to other countries. 

Without more specific details, however, it’s hard to know what the future holds for fleets. Perhaps, like Snap’s Stories before it, it will come to redefine the service. However, if we had to bet, we’d put our money on it having a more fleeting impact.


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