Twitter’s Snapchat-Rival Fleets Feature Comes to Fleeting End

That was fleeting.

Twitter Inc.

TWTR 0.96%

is pulling the plug on a short-lived disappearing posts function intended to compete with similar services at rival social-media companies after it failed to boost user engagement.

The function, called Fleets and launched about eight months ago, provides a way for users to post text, photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours. It’s a years-old concept that has flourished on visual-focused apps like Snapchat, owned by

Snap Inc.,

SNAP -2.31%


Facebook Inc.’s

FB -1.27%


Twitter on Wednesday said it would cease providing the Fleets function on Aug. 3.

“We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter,” said

Ilya Brown,

Twitter’s vice president of product. “But, in the time since we introduced Fleets to everyone, we haven’t seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped.”’

Twitter in recent years has been trying to find new ways to grow its audience, including introducing a subscription service and exploring tipping for content creators. Its user growth has lagged behind Facebook and Snap. For the March-ended quarter, Twitter said it had 199 million daily active users, while Facebook reported roughly 1.88 billion and Snap said it had 280 million.

Fleets isn’t the first feature Twitter introduced and subsequently killed. In 2015, Twitter acquired Periscope, an app that allowed users to live stream themselves onto Twitter, just weeks before it launched. In March, the app shut down after what company officials said was declining use and an unsustainable maintenance model.

Twitter previously had acquired Vine, an app where users could share snappy six-second videos of themselves and friends, predating the now wildly popular TikTok. Twitter heralded the deal as one of its “foundational acquisitions,” then shut the function down a few years later after failing to capitalize on the popularity of the app and losing users to rivals like Snapchat, Instagram and

Alphabet Inc.’s


Social-media companies have a history of copying features that are showing success for rivals. Instagram introduced its Stories disappearing posts to follow Snapchat’s success. It last year added short-video service Reels in the U.S. as TikTok’s popularity boomed. Snap around that time introduced its own TikTok-like short-video function.

Not all such copycat efforts yield success. Stories on Instagram have been popular, but the same function has been less of a hit on Facebook’s core platform. Instagram also tried to mimic Snapchat’s core functionality by launching a stand-alone camera-focused messaging app, called Direct. It came with Snapchat-style filters and linked to users’ Instagram accounts. The project was shut down in less than two years and Instagram shifted its focus to messaging within its main app.

For Twitter, Fleets was meant to address some of the anxieties that hold people back from tweeting, Mr. Brown said. But instead the function has been used mostly by people who already tweet to amplify their own content and talk directly to others.

Twitter said the Fleets experiment generated useful information on how users operate on its platform—particularly around posting photos and videos—that may spur updates to the platform.

The social-media platform recently launched other efforts to spur user and revenue growth. In April, it introduced a subscription service for content creators and last year launched Twitter Spaces, a feature that lets users host and listen to live audio conversations. It also recently began tests with a new ad format.

“We’ll continue to build new ways to participate in conversations, listening to feedback and changing direction when there may be a better way to serve people using Twitter,” Mr. Brown said.

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