Twitter is sunsetting its ephemeral stories feature, Fleets, after it failed to gain traction among users. Fleets will no longer be available from 3 August, the company announced on Wednesday (14 July).
The social-media network began testing the feature in Brazil in March last year after witnessing the success of disappearing stories on other platforms. Posts that vanish after 24 hours remove some of the anxieties of social media, such as comments and validation, said Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s product lead, when Fleets was first announced.
"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' and retweets will this get?)," Beykpour said at the time.
— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) March 4, 2020
Every day, people come to Twitter to see what’s happening. One of the unique things about Twitter is that “what’s happening” is fueled by people sharing their thoughts openly, through Tweets. But sharing your thoughts publicly can be intimidating!
Fleets were designed as a way "to share fleeting thoughts". The messages were viewable at the top of the feed, and were not commentable or shareable. Users could react to Fleets only in direct messages. It was an adaptation of the Stories format pioneered by Snapchat in 2013. This was copied by Instagram in 2016 and rapidly became one of its most popular formats, boasting 500 million daily active users in 2019.
Ephemeral features have since been widely adopted across the social media sphere, including Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Twitter rolled out the product globally on 17 November alongside new features such as the ability to Fleet a Tweet. But it has since failed to capture the attention of users and brands.
"We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter," said Ilya Brown, head of product, brand and video ads, in a blog post. "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."
Twitter said Fleets did not fulfil its ambition to encourage participation from non-active users. Instead, the majority of users who created Fleets were Twitter's most active users, who used it as an amplification tool.
"We had planned for Fleets to help people feel comfortable joining the conversation in a low-pressure way, but it turns out Fleets were mainly used by those Tweeting the most," the company said in a tweet.
The platform said it will take learnings from Fleets to create other features, including exploring more ways to address what holds people back from participating on Twitter. It will also test incorporating features from the Fleets composer into the Tweet composer and camera, like the full-screen camera, text formatting options, and gif stickers. Twitter was also using Fleets to test full-screen, vertical format ads. It said it was "taking a close look at learnings to assess how these ads perform".
A version of this story originally appeared on Campaign Asia