On Wednesday, Twitter announced it’s testing a new feature called “fleets.” They’re tweets that disappear after 24 hours. It would be Twitter’s version of “Stories” from Instagram.
Someone DM Twitter’s product lead the Wikipedia page for “New Coke,” so he can read a classic case study on what happens when brands with loyal followings copy rivals.
Kayvon Beykpour, product lead at Twitter, wrote:
People often tell us that they don’t feel comfortable Tweeting because Tweets can be seen and replied to by anybody, feel permanent and performative (how many Likes & Retweets will this get!?).
Maybe Twitter’s just not for those people.
The best products aren’t for everyone. They’re for the true believers. When iconic brands start to smooth out the edges to please everyone, they become nothing. The best course of action is to shun the nonbelievers.
Because it would be for posting your “fleeting” thoughts, someone at Jack Dorsey’s social media company came up with the name “fleets” for the feature.
The user backlash against fleets was swift and unsparing.
Users flocked to the #RIPTwitter hashtag to voice their disapproval of fleets.
Don’t worry, Twitter users. Most of your thoughts are the ugliest thing about you. Just get a gym membership and a spray tan, and you’ll be fleet-worthy in no time.
The new feature raises serious questions about the spread of misinformation on Twitter. That’s a threat Jack Dorsey’s social media platform will always have to keep in mind with new functions. People could use fleets to cut and run with misinformation.
In the final analysis, fleets would water down the platform and alienate some core supporters like New Coke alienated people who liked Coca-Cola just the way it was. But it’s no reason to say #RIPTwitter. An edit button really would be Twitter’s funeral.
It seemed like half the top tweets panning the “fleet” feature were saying what Twitter really needs instead is an edit button.
There were calls for bookmark organizing functions too.
And plenty of nonplussed gifs and memes.
But these people are out of their minds to call for an edit button in a tweet tagged with a #RIPTwitter hashtag. Twitter has resisted the overwhelming pressure campaign for this over the years because they know it would ruin the platform.
In fact, a Twitter edit button would be an existential threat to the integrity of the platform. Twitter is a vast archive of our timestamped thoughts, woven together in a digital ocean of interlinking threads. If people can edit tweets, it’s not an archive anymore. This is not a matter of user experience, but one of historical import.
Who controls the past controls the future, and who controls the present controls the past. So said 20th-century social critic George Orwell. Freezing the past into an objective archive, unalterable by anyone in the present, is a check against the forces of reaction that threaten the open society we’ve worked so hard to build.
Immutability is a divine attribute that makes Twitter powerful. These edit button advocates are unwittingly calling for a tsunami of revisionist history.
Don’t give in to them, Jack.
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This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor, or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us and we will look at it as soon as possible.