What is twitter More than 14 years after the social media platform launched, this is still a question the company spends a lot of time answering.
For example, during a press conference yesterday, executives spent about 20 minutes explaining Twitter’s mission (“serving the public sphere”) and its various shortcomings, of which there are many. People don’t feel safe tweeting. You feel intimidated. You don’t understand Twitter. Most people just lurk, but remain in a passive mode.
“What stopped people from moving from passive observation to more active observation?” said Twitter research director Nikkia Reveillac. “What we’ve learned from talking to people is that honestly, tweeting and talking can be incredibly scary.”
The result is that Twitter is a platform dominated by a few people who are not afraid to share their unfiltered thoughts. According to a Pew study published in October, 10% of users produce 92% of all US tweets.
How do you get those non-tweeters off the sidelines?
Twitter has taken some incremental steps this year to reduce the fear factor. In January, Twitter announced that people might be hiding answers. Then in August, the company rolled out a new feature to choose who can reply to Tweets for more curated conversations.
“To really serve this global conversation, we have to do better,” Reveillac said. “We need to broaden the conversation so that everyone can more easily participate in this conversation from all perspectives.”
That brings us to what is being announced today: fleets. All of this deep analytical context and research may be on the money. But it also brings fancy intellectual window dressing to a feature that essentially mimics Facebook stories, mimics Instagram stories, and copies Snapchat.
“This format may sound familiar to you,” said Joshua Harris, director of design on Twitter. “And it seems like we’re a little late. But we’ve been methodical, exploring the format and how it works for people on Twitter. And we have recognized through market tests and research that this makes sense for our platform. “
Harris said that fleets lower the stakes for many users and make them feel like they are jumping into conversations. Twitter has found that a large number of users start writing tweets and then leave them in their draft folders and never come back to them. Fleets reduce pressure by being short-lived. In theory.
How it works on Twitter is pretty similar to how it works on other platforms. Write a tweet, then decide whether to share it on your timeline or on fleets. If it’s the latter, it essentially becomes an image. Before sharing, users can add emojis or other text. In the coming months, Twitter will add more features like stickers, various creator tools, and live broadcasts.
Other users’ fleets are shown in circles above your timeline and only remain visible for 24 hours. If you choose to respond or comment, these messages will be shown as direct messages to the creator of the fleet.
The company started testing fleets in Brazil back in March, and is confident enough with the results to bring them on worldwide.
“There are no public likes or retweets to worry about,” Harris said. “Whoever replies to my fleet does so privately via direct message and that triggers a private one-on-one conversation without me having to worry about spamming my followers. We tested this and found that fleets help people become more comfortable with their fleeting thoughts. “
Perhaps. But during the press conference, Harris was asked about the Achilles heel of this plan: screenshots. Yes, people can take them and drag users at will. For now.
But wait, there’s more!
Twitter is working on other ways to make itself more accessible. Earlier this year, Twitter released audio tweets for Apple iOS users. A project that insists is going well.
Now Twitter wants to expand the use of audio. One concept that is currently being developed and tested is the sending of audio direct messages. The company believes that this feature insists that many users have requested it. Few details were shared.
Twitter staff product designer Maya Gold Patterson revealed a more ambitious product in the works: Audio Spaces. The product enables users to create live chat rooms with other users.
“We envisioned a live audio room as a place where people could communicate directly with another person or group of people,” said Patterson. “We imagined that these rooms would feel very intimate and safe, where people can feel comfortable talking to the people they want. We used this metaphor of a well-organized dinner party. You don’t have to know everyone at the party to be comfortable or have a good time. But everyone should feel comfortable sitting at the table. “
There is no schedule yet for Audio Spaces to be released. Patterson said Twitter will start testing it first with users who are likely to feel most vulnerable on the platform.
“It is important that we have the right security,” she said. “We have to do this right so that people can use live audio rooms in the way we can imagine and how they are most helpful to them. So we’ll do something different. We will present this first experiment of Spaces to a very small group of people, a group of people disproportionately affected by abuse and harm on the platform: women and people with marginalized backgrounds. As a black woman, I have unfortunately experienced countless abuses and harassment online and on Twitter. Hence, getting this right is a personal matter for me. And the team is keen to hear from this group of people first about their feedback on audio rooms. “
Finally, Christine Su, Senior Product Manager at Twitter, pointed out tools and features the company is trying to develop to enable “private apologies and forgiveness”.
“One of the things that we investigate for the next year is sometimes, if you’re really emotional and in the moment you’re losing control, someone you trust will take you aside and say, ‘Hey, that’s not cool. Breather. Said Su. “So we are investigating methods of private feedback on the platform as well as private apologies and forgiveness.”
So what would that look like?
“That might look like a notification,” she said. “It’s like a gentle elbow from someone you follow. Or it can look like a nudge too. I am very much looking forward to continuing. But we’ve been methodical, exploring the format and how it works for people on Twitter. This is a sneak peek of what’s to come so we can build more empathy and thoughtfulness on Twitter. “