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Fleets, we barely knew you. It’s a cliché, but also true. It’s because Fleets, true to its namesake, has only been around for eight months. Twitter launched the feature, a Stories-like tool that allowed users to post messages that would disappear after 24 hours, in November; then this week Twitter announced that it would end the service with a very succinct tweet: “We’re removing the fleets on August 3, working on new things.” we are sorry or you are welcome.
Now, the passing of the fleets should certainly be greeted with any praise that seems necessary for you and yours (although it’s hard to imagine that it lasted long enough for someone to really cry). But let’s talk about this second part, the “we’re sorry or you are welcome” part. Has there ever been a more appropriate addition to a company’s social media post these days? Has there ever been a more succinct way to summarize how changes on almost all platforms are delivered and received by users? I say no.
In one blog post Announcing the impending death of Fleets, Ilya Brown, vice president of product for Twitter, admitted that the feature had been an experiment, which had not worked. “If we don’t evolve our approach and reduce functionality every now and then, we’re not taking enough risk,” Brown wrote. This was the corporate blog’s version of the shrug emoji, and frankly that’s good, but it’s hard not to wish the whole post was just “we’re sorry or you’re welcome.” . Twitter is sorry for removing what you didn’t ask for; you will never have to watch it again, you are welcome. Twitter is sorry for removing this thing you might have liked, but you’ve had it for a while, you’re welcome. Twitter is sorry that you sometimes call it a “hellish site”; but it also knows how long you spend there. You are welcome.
This is neither a Twitter dig nor a celebration of his work. It’s just. The social media business lives and dies based on its ability to adapt new features. Sometimes these features look like things that have been made popular on other platforms (fleets looked a bit like Instagram Stories, which looked a bit like Snaps…), but Twitter has had a lot of success adapting the tips that users were already pulling: create a retweet function to enable what people were already doing with “RT”, allowing people to tag other users using the @ symbol. Maybe the fleets failed because it wasn’t something people were already doing, unless you were counting them. prevalence of deleting tweets.
So this is where Twitter’s apologetic language seems most appropriate. ‘Cause if there’s a Twitter thing should sorry it adds low demand features rather than the ones people have been asking for for years. Like an Edit button. The attraction (I think) of Fleets was that it allowed for more fleeting thoughts; users were less worried about mistakes because the message was gone within a day. But those anxieties would be alleviated – and the need for fleets drastically diminished – if people knew they could fix errors in normal tweets. Twitter could also devote more resources to its content moderation and anti-harassment efforts, but that’s another story.
Ultimately, the fleets were as fleeting as their creators had anticipated. It’s OK. Very little in the tech world is less than fleeting. (Remember the Twitter egg?) Maybe it’s better for everyone to accept, especially Twitter. We are sorry and you are welcome.
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