Twitter Rolls Out Its Disappearing Tweets, Fleets, Worldwide

The social network is also testing a new Audio Spaces feature

Twitter began beta-testing Fleets in Brazil in March, extending it to India, Italy, Japan and South Korea Twitter

Twitter said Tuesday that it is rolling out its Fleets disappearing tweets feature globally, as well as beginning to test new audio feature Audio Spaces.

The social network began beta-testing Fleets in Brazil in March, extending it to India, Italy, Japan and South Korea since then.

Director of design Joshua Harris and product manager Sam Haveson said in a blog post Tuesday that Fleets will be available globally for Android and iOS in the coming days.

Harris explained the motivation behind Fleets in a press call Monday, saying, “Tweets are public, and they feel really permanent. People feel like a good tweet has a lot of likes, retweets and replies, and that a tweet has to be perfect. People draft tweets and don’t send them. Fleets creates a lower-pressure way for people to join the conversation.”

Twitter head of research Nikkia Reveillac expanded on that theme during the press call, saying, “Life has begun to unfold online in 2020 more than ever before … Tweeting, retweeting and engaging in conversation can be absolutely terrifying. This is true in real life and online. These two things are basically one in the same these days.”

Much like Snaps on Snapchat, Fleets disappear after 24 hours. “People feel more comfortable joining conversations on Twitter in this ephemeral moment,” Harris said.

They can contain text, tweets, reactions to tweets, photos or videos, and they can be customized with background and text options. Stickers and livestreaming will be added down the line.

Followers can see users’ Fleets at the top of their home timeline, as can anyone who can see that user’s full profile.

If the user behind a Fleet has their direct messages open, anyone can reply to those Fleets. To do so, people can tap on the Fleet to send a DM or emoji to the Fleet creator, and the conversation can then be continued in DMs.

Harris said Twitter is looking into adding further controls to Fleets in the future, including notifying people if their Fleets are captured in screenshots.

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Twitter also began testing Audio Spaces, which staff product designer Maya Gold Patterson described during the press call as a “well-hosted dinner party: You don’t need to know everyone at the party to be comfortable or have a good time, but everyone should feel comfortable at the party.”

The social network is putting a priority on safety for this potential feature, with Patterson saying, “Safety is of the utmost importance. It’s critical that we get safety right in order for people to leverage live audio spaces.”

On that note, the first test group for Audio Spaces will be made up of a very small group of women and people from marginalized backgrounds, as Patterson said Twitter is interested in this group’s feedback on the feature.

“Sometimes 280 characters does not cut it,” she added. “Sometimes tweeting isn’t the right way of communicating at that moment. Hearing the empathy, emotion and nuance in someone’s voice can help people connect at different levels.”

Product lead Kayvon Beykpour said during the press call that Audio Spaces are “an open dialog space where followers or whoever you set as able to join can come in and engage in conversation or just hang out, based on controls set by the user.”

Twitter began testing voice tweets with a limited group of iOS users in June, and the social network quickly came under fire for the feature’s failure to take into account users who are visually impaired, hard of hearing or deaf.

The company responded immediately, issuing apologies—including a lengthy, passionate one from Patterson—and vowing to make things right.

Twitter formed two new teams in September, the Accessibility Center of Excellence and the Experience Accessibility Team, to focus on ensuring greater accessibility, tooling and advocacy across all Twitter products.

Later that month, its test of voice tweets was extended to more iOS users.

Patterson said during the press call that Twitter is working on making transcriptions available for all media on the social network sometime next year, adding that audio in DMs is being tested in Brazil and Twitter has “seen really promising results: We’re really excited about this feature.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the press call, Beykpour was asked about similarities between Audio Spaces and Clubhouse, and he replied, “Clubhouse is not exactly how we think about it. Twitter has a very specific set of mechanics that allow for very specific types of discourse—very short-form, high-brevity conversations. It’s very difficult to have long, deep, thoughtful conversations on Twitter. We need to give people other forms for conversations that they can’t pack into 280 characters.”

He added, “Audio is having a resurgence right now across many digital spaces. It will be fascinating to see how other platforms explore the area.”

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Twitter began testing a prompt in its Android application in June, urging users to read articles before retweeting them.

In September, the social network said people opened articles 40% more often after seeing the prompt, and the number of people opening articles prior to retweeting them was up 33%.

“Reading is fundamental,” senior product manager Christine Su said during the press call. “We are excited to be launching this globally. One of the things we’re exploring for this next year is more of these types of reminders and nudges to people to be more thoughtful and kinder.”

Su added that the social network is also experimenting with features enabling users to share public apologies and express forgiveness, saying, “Sometimes when you’re really emotional and losing control in the moment, it may take someone you trust to say, ‘Hey, that’s not cool: Take a breather.’ We know that different people are going to use these controls differently.”

“At its best, Twitter is a pulse of human consciousness through what people are saying and what people are thinking,” Beykpour said. “Our mission is to serve the public conversation. It is the purpose that drives all of our work.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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