On Wednesday, Twitter will begin testing a feature, called “Fleets,” that will allow you to post photos, videos, and text that disappear after a short period of time. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s nothing other than the long-awaited debut of stories on the social platform.
When Snapchat invented stories in 2013, people loved the way they could use the feature to share things without worry, and the app became a major hit. As a result, every social app began to copy it.
Facebook started the rip-off race when it built a stories feature into Instagram in 2016. “They deserve all the credit,” Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom said of Snapchat at the time. Facebook went on to build stories into every other product it owned: WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook proper. The tech giant probably would’ve built stories into Libra, its cryptocurrency project, if it could.
With Facebook leading the way, the rest of the social internet followed. YouTube did stories. Netflix did stories. Tinder did stories. Even LinkedIn did stories. Yes, freakin’ LinkedIn.
But Twitter did not.
That’s not to say people didn’t tell them to. In September 2016, BuzzFeed News argued it would be a ”no brainer” for Twitter to copy stories. “Since you follow people on Twitter because you’re interested in what they’re saying and doing, you could expect their Twitter Stories to be relevant to you in a way that transcends mere friendship,” this news website argued. Twitter did not listen — initially.
Today, Twitter is finally changing its tune. It’s testing fleets — its try-hard name that mashes together “fleeting” and “tweets” — in Brazil, according to a company blog post. It’s also a life-imitates-art kind of feature. In The Big Disruption, a 2018 novel that satirizes and skewers Silicon Valley by former Google communications head Jessica Powell, Twitter is thinly fictionalized as “Flitter,” and tweets are “fleets.”
“People have told us in early research that because Fleets disappear, they feel more willing to share casual, everyday thoughts,” Twitter said on Wednesday. “We hope that people who don’t usually feel comfortable Tweeting use Fleets to share musings about what’s on their mind.”
Fleets cannot be retweeted or liked, the company said. They support text, GIFs, videos, and photos.
Twitter is introducing this new feature one week after reports emerged that activist investor Elliott Management bought approximately 4% of the company and is seeking to replace Jack Dorsey as CEO.
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Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
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