What are Twitter Fleets? Why social media platform has axed controversial ‘stories’ just months after launch

Fleets, Twitter’s disappearing posts feature, is set to be retired, with the company instead ‘focusing on improving other parts of Twitter’

Less than a year after rolling out the update, Twitter has announced that it will be ditching its controversial Fleets feature.

Fleets were originally rolled out worldwide in November 2020, following testing in Brazil, Italy, India and South Korea.

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Why is Twitter getting rid of Fleets?

On 14 July, the official Twitter account wrote: “We’re removing Fleets on August 3, working on some new stuff.

“We’re sorry or you’re welcome.”

In response to one person asking why Fleets were getting axed, the Twitter Support account replied: “We hoped Fleets would encourage more people to join the conversation, but that wasn’t the case.

Fleets were only rolled out towards the end of last year, in November 2020 (Photo: Shutterstock)
Fleets were only rolled out towards the end of last year, in November 2020 (Photo: Shutterstock)

“So we’re removing them and focusing on improving other parts of Twitter.”

In a blog post, titled Goodbye, Fleets, Head of Product, Brand and Video Ads Ilya Brown wrote that since the introduction of Fleets, Twitter “[hasn’t] seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped”.

Because of this, Fleets will be retired from Tuesday 3 August.

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What are Fleets?

Fleets are pretty similar to other features found on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat - vanishing posts which are only available to view for a short period of time before they disappear forever.

At the time of the launch, Twitter explained: “Fleets are for sharing momentary thoughts - they help start conversations and only stick around for 24 hours.”

The message will appear when a user’s profile picture is clicked. Much like Instagram stories, there is no way to publicly comment or like the story, except via Direct Message.

Again, as with Instagram, you can share other Tweets in your Fleets section, and add comments, emojis and hashtags.

Fleets can be found at the top of your Twitter home timeline, in a very similar layout to Instagram stories.

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

What’s next for Twitter?

In the blog post bidding goodbye to Fleets, Brown wrote that using what they learned from Fleets, Twitter will “focus on creating other ways for people to join the conversation and talk about what’s happening in their world”.

Brown explained that the Fleets feature was mostly used by those who were already Tweeting a lot, so the social media company will “explore more ways to address what holds people back from participating on Twitter”.

Twitter will also be testing updates to the Tweet composer tool and camera to “incorporate features from the Fleets composer - like the full screen camera, text formatting options, and GIF stickers”.

Brown ended the post by writing: “We’re evolving what Twitter is, and trying bigger, bolder things to serve the public conversation.

“A number of these updates, like Fleets, are speculative and won’t work out. We’ll be rigorous, evaluate what works, and know when to move on and focus elsewhere.

“If we're not evolving our approach and winding down features every once in a while – we're not taking big enough chances.

“We’ll continue to build new ways to participate in conversations, listening to feedback and changing direction when there may be a better way to serve people using Twitter.”

How have people reacted to the news?

Reaction to the news on Twitter has mostly been from those who never used or liked the feature.

One person Tweeted: “Fleets felt really useless, glad they’re removing them.”

Another wrote: “Fleets is leaving and I don’t even know what it is???”

“The five people who used fleets must be really disappointed,” wrote another.

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