Twitter Intros Ephemeral Tweets, Gathering Spaces for Audio

Twitter is launching Fleets, a feature that allows users to post photos or text that will disappear after 24 hours. Snapchat pioneered the ephemeral post, followed by Instagram and Facebook. Rollout of the Stories-like feature is moving forward, but has been scaled back as Twitter addresses “some performance and stability problems.” The platform’s “global town square” continues to be its “marquee product” but, said Twitter director of design Joshua Harris, the Fleets feature creates a space with less pressure for users who lurk but don’t post. The company is also testing Spaces, a new audio feature similar to Clubhouse, a startup that debuted earlier this year.

“Twitter started making the feature [Fleets] available to all its users on November 17th after over eight months of testing,” notes Engadget. “The website struggled to accommodate everyone scrambling to try the feature out, though, and Fleets ended up plagued with issues shortly after it was launched.”

The New York Times reports that, “Twitter’s move is part of a larger shift by social media companies toward more private and temporary modes of sharing” as the flood of “toxic content and misinformation” has encouraged many to “minimize their digital footprints and communicate in more intimate groups.”

Twitter is also late to the party because of the difficulty of creating ads for ephemeral posts. But tests of the new feature, in countries outside the U.S., showed that, “those new to Twitter found Fleets to be an easier way to share what’s on their mind.”

Twitter is also experimenting with Spaces, which, in its early stages, “looks and acts similar to Clubhouse …  an all-audio, all-ephemeral social chat room approach.” “There is a ton we’re doing behind the scenes, expanding our rules and trying to prevent abuse and harassment before it happens,” said Twitter product manager Christine Su.

Vox reports that Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour noted that, “it’s no surprise that the typical conversation on Twitter is a short burst of high-brevity exchanges back and forth between multiple people … but if we want to allow for a wider range of conversations to unfold, we need to support other formats.”

With Fleets, similar to Snapchat Stories and Instagram, “people will be able to share reactions to other tweets, videos, and photos” and eventually “incorporate stickers and live broadcasts.” Fleets cannot be retweeted or shared. Twitter has not, however, “built a way to prevent someone from taking a screenshot of a Fleet or a way to provide a notification when someone takes a screenshot of your tweet.”

“Spaces builds on the audio tweets feature Twitter launched earlier this year that allowed people to post recordings of their voice up to 140 seconds long,” Vox says, adding that Twitter will incorporate transcription features in 2021. According to Spaces staff designer Maya Gold Patterson, Spaces will first debut with a handful of invitations to “people who are disproportionately impacted by abuse and harm on the platform, women and those from marginalized backgrounds.”

The Verge reports that Spaces could “could provide another avenue for users to have conversations on the platform — but without harassment and abuse from trolls or bad actors, thanks to tools that let creators of these spaces better control the conversation.” In a conversation space, the user will be able to see who is in the room and talking at any given time. The person who creates the space has moderation controls and “can determine who can actually participate, too.”

Twitter’s Fleets Expansion Marred by Performance, Privacy Issues, Bloomberg, 11/19/20

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