(Pocket-lint) - Twitter has been developing a new Stories feature, called Fleets, for more than a year, and it's finally starting to roll out the feature to mobile users. 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 users 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 rolling out a new, more fleeting type of post. Called Fleets, naturally, 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?

Any mobile Twitter user has access to the disappearing messaging feature, which sits at the top of the timeline in a row of Stories-like bubbles.

With Fleets, you can share text, respond to others’ tweets, or post videos with familiar background colour and text options - and every message will disappear after 24 hours. You can also respond to others’ fleets by tapping on one and sending a direct message to the creator.

Twitter said it will also introduce stickers and live broadcasting in the future. Currently, you cannot like or retweet a fleet.

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 kicked things off in 2020 with a small test in Brazil, Italy, India, and South Korea. On 17 November, it announced the global launch of Fleets. The new feature is rolling out to the Android and iOS versions of the Twitter mobile app and should be available for everyone "in the coming days", the company said.

“We learned Fleets helped people feel more comfortable joining the conversation - we saw people with Fleets talk more on Twitter,” explain design director Joshua Harris and product manager Sam Haveson in a blog post. “Those new to Twitter found Fleets to be an easier way to share what’s on their mind. Because they disappear from view after a day, Fleets helped people feel more comfortable sharing personal and casual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.”


Why is Twitter offering 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.