(Pocket-lint) - Twitter has been developing a new Stories feature, called Fleets, reportedly for more than a year, and it's ready to finally start testing it.

Fleets represent a way for Twitter to better rival Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms that have pioneered the Stories format. It's clear that Stories encourage new forms of sharing - perhaps even more casual, personal sharing - so it makes sense that Twitter would also want to give its users the ability to intimately express themselves - just like they can with their other favourite apps.

Whether they actually will use Fleets on Twitter remains to be seen. Nevertheless, here's how the new feature works.


What are Twitter Fleets?

Since 2006, Twitter has allowed its users to share tweets. Typically, these are text-based posts, but they can include images, etc. Now, Twitter is testing a new, more fleeting type of post. Called Fleets (see what we did there?), they appear above the timeline for just 24 hours before disappearing. In other words, Twitter's Fleets feature is a direct clone of Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories.

How do Twitter Fleets work?

Post Fleets

You should see a plus button in a new row that sits above your Twitter timeline. You may see new ephemeral posts from others in this row. Tap the plus button to start a fleet. You can type up to 280 characters of text, add photos, GIFs, or videos. When you post your fleet, it will appear in that new row alongside other Fleets from those you follow, with the most recent visible first.

Fleets disappear after 24 hours.

React to Fleets

Although you cannot like or retweet a fleet, you can respond to Fleets with reaction emoji - just like you can respond to tweets in direct messages. You can also respond with text, but that will open up a direct message thread with the person you’re messaging.

When will Fleets be available?

Twitter's kicking things off with a test in Brazil. Presumably, Fleets will roll out more widely in the coming months.


Why is Twitter testing Fleets?

With Fleets, Twitter wants to give its users the ability to share or join a conversation without having to post a tweet, which can live forever on your profile and feels much more permanent. Here's how Mo Aladham, a Twitter group product manager, described Fleets in a blog post:

“Twitter is for having conversations about what you care about. But, some of you tell us that you’re uncomfortable to tweet because tweets are public, feel permanent, and have public counts (retweets and likes). We want to make it possible for you to have conversations in new ways with less pressure and more control, beyond tweets and direct messages. That’s why starting today in Brazil, we’re testing Fleets, a new way to start conversations from your fleeting thoughts.”

Want to know more?

Check out Twitter's support hub.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.