Twitter’s new feature ‘Fleets’, which is currently being tested, will see tweets vanish after 24 hours without getting any retweets, likes or replies. But other major platforms — Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook — already have this feature in place.
ThePrint asks: Twitter testing ‘fleets’: exciting feature or late to the trend after Snapchat, Instagram?
Fleets are neither meant for life updates nor for proper conversations. Go to Instagram instead
Internet never forgets’ is almost the tagline for Twitter. Many people, over the past few years, have dug up old tweets to call out the hypocrisies of politicians, celebrities and journalists. And at present, when the uncertain premise of several individuals’ ideological stances have been revealed, a permanent record of their statements is important.
These ephemeral tweets, or ‘Fleets’, as they’re calling them, erode the uniqueness of Twitter. Instagram’s ‘stories’, Snapchat’s ‘stories’, WhatsApp’s ‘status updates’ — they’re all absolutely the same. The 280-character limit of a tweet was unique to Twitter, and now by jumping on this absolutely unnecessary ‘stories’ bandwagon, Twitter is compromising what it is all about — just the tweets.
Moreover, this new feature can be misused as well. More than legitimate users, Twitter is rife with trolls, and with these Fleets, they can say absolutely anything and it’ll be gone in 24 hours. So, in all probability, they won’t even have to face any consequences for it. Not that Twitter does such a great job of tackling trolls now, but why give them extra ammunition?
On Twitter, the most random tweets go viral, and that is the essence of the site — being goofy, funny and serious at the same time. Let’s be honest, Fleets are neither meant for life updates nor for proper conversations. You want to share minute details of your life, go to Instagram.
Twitter is late to this game, but I don’t begrudge it for trying to lure more users to make more money
Senior Correspondent, ThePrint
Twitter is slow and late to introduce this feature, but it’s okay because I feel bad for this microblogging site. Twitter is the most important social media platform, yet isn’t earning as much money as it deserves to. So, while Twitter is definitely late to the ‘disappearing messages’ game, I don’t begrudge the company for trying to lure more users with new features to make more money.
Twitter’s service is the most important because this is where news breaks and history is made. Twitter is faster and more responsive than Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok in finding out if there’s a traffic jam, or a partial internet shutdown, or a riot happening somewhere, or if Donald Trump wants to declare war on someone.
And yet, Twitter is trailing behind its competitors in terms of the amount of money earned. In 2019, while Twitter earned $3.46 billion, Instagram earned $20 billion just from advertisements, while its parent company, Facebook, earned nearly $70 billion.
So, maybe, after years of trying to raise more money while also trying to get rid of the criticisms against it, Twitter can use ‘disappearing messages’ to attract new users. My only concern is that hatemongers might use these ‘fleeting’ tweets to post hateful things and then claim they never said them. But that’s okay, because we can always have screenshots to expose them if they lie.
Twitter’s new feature won’t really guarantee it new users, at least in India’s tier-2 and tier-3 cities
Twitter has more than 11.45 million users in India, much smaller than other photo and video-sharing platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
While Instagram and Snapchat cater mostly to the youth, Twitter is also used by people of other age brackets, mostly to set narratives. For example, political parties use Twitter for building their image, film stars use it for movie promotions, media for news and IT cells for hate-mongering. These people would hardly care about Twitter’s new ‘disappearing tweets’ feature.
Apps such as Snapchat are also late to the game if they want to cater to tier-2 and tier-3 cities in India. People from these cities are aspiring to be the new stars of the internet, and want to express themselves through photos and videos. Twitter’s new feature won’t serve that purpose, and users in these cities have discovered other exciting apps — Vigo, Likee and ShareChat.
So, by introducing a feature that is already present in other major social media platforms, Twitter is not really going to be able to lure new users, at least in India.
Fleets will help curb needless and random thoughts people tweet every now and then, which is much needed
Senior video producer, ThePrint
Even though Twitter is late to the party, it’s still ‘better late than never’. With Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and even YouTube using the ‘stories’ format, it’s no surprise that Twitter has had to follow suit.
Twitter has become a platform for people to share news, disseminate information, blurt random thoughts and complaints. I believe Fleets will help curb the needless and random thoughts people tweet every now and then, which is much-needed. This could allow other users to ‘consume’ an intelligent tweet and a random ‘Fleet’ separately.
Additionally, all the paid promotions and sponsored tweets could be carried forward to Fleets, keeping users away from them. As for the interface, the ‘swipe up for next story’ is an interesting feature, but users may need time to adjust to this change.
There are minute aesthetic changes in Twitter compared to other platforms, which I feel are intuitive, and thus, a plus point. Only time will tell how Twitter’s new feature pans out for users in India and across the world.
To sum it up, Twitter’s Fleets doesn’t stand out or serve a new purpose. It’s just another addition to another app we are using. A necessary evil.
Also read: Not Twitter or Facebook, is Instagram the new safe space for political opinion in India?
By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint