Today, Twitter announced that it is acquiring Squad and that the team from the screen-sharing social app will be joining Twitter’s ranks. Squad’s co-founders, CEO Esther Crawford and CTO Ethan Sutin, and the rest of the team will be coming aboard inside Twitter’s design, engineering, and product departments, Twitter tells us. Crawford specifically notes that she will be leading a product in the conversations space.
What isn’t coming aboard is the actual Squad app, which allowed users to share their screens on mobile or desktop and simultaneously video chat, a feature that aimed to find the …
SAN FRANCISCO — First Snapchat did it. Then Instagram and Facebook jumped in. Now Twitter is joining in, too.
On Tuesday, Twitter said it would introduce a feature called Fleets, allowing users to post ephemeral photos or text that will automatically disappear after 24 hours. Fleets, a name that refers to the “fleeting” nature of a thought or expression, will roll out to all iPhone and Android users globally over the coming days, the company said.
Twitter said its main “global town square” service, which people such as President Trump use to broadcast their thoughts to followers, remained its marquee product. But the company said it recognized that many users simply lurked on the platform and rarely posted. Fleets, it said, could make it easier for people to communicate without worrying about wider scrutiny of their posts.
“We’ve learned that some people feel more comfortable joining conversations on Twitter with this ephemeral format, so what they’re saying lives just for a moment in time,” said Joshua Harris, a Twitter director of design. “We can create a space with less pressure that allows people to express themselves in a way that feels a bit more safe.”
Twitter’s move is part of a larger shift by social media companies toward more private and temporary modes of sharing. As public sharing on social media has spread toxic content and misinformation, many people have looked to minimize their digital footprints and communicate in more intimate groups.
Ephemeral sharing was pioneered by Snapchat. Evan Spiegel, chief executive of Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, has said he noticed that young people wished to keep their photos and communications private and temporary when he founded his company in 2011. Snapchat’s Stories feature, which broadcasts someone’s posts to his or her followers before disappearing 24 hours later, has become hugely popular.
Snapchat’s competitors have taken note. Facebook and its family of apps, including the photo-sharing site Instagram and the WhatsApp messaging app, have replicated the feature in recent years. Others, such as LinkedIn and Pinterest, have also followed suit.
Twitter has been late to the trend, partly because of the public nature of its platform. It is also more difficult to create advertising for ephemeral posts than for more permanent content, another hurdle to building the product.
In tests of Fleets in a handful of countries outside the United States recently, users gravitated to the new feature, Twitter executives said. “Those new to Twitter found Fleets to be an easier way to share what’s on their mind,” Mr. Harris said.
Smaller tech companies have also worked on innovating alternate forms of communication over the past few years. Discord, a popular communications start-up among gamers and others, has popularized group chat rooms that use video, voice or text chat. Clubhouse, another start-up, has pushed an all-audio, all-ephemeral social chat room approach.
Twitter said it was also experimenting with audio forms of communication among users. One of those products, called Spaces, looks and acts similar to Clubhouse, with small groups of people able to speak privately with no permanent recording of the conversation. Spaces is still in its early stages, the company said.
In shifting toward more private communications, Twitter will have to strike a balance between monitoring and limiting abusive content with the privacy of its users. Social media services tend to find it difficult to root out toxic posts and falsehoods when people are engaged in more intimate conversations and are not publicly posting.
Twitter said it was offering more tools for users to report harmful or abusive content, among other solutions.
“There is a ton we’re doing behind the scenes, expanding our rules and trying to prevent abuse and harassment before it happens,” said Christine Su, a Twitter product manager. More than half of all tweets that break the rules are removed before they are reported to the company, she said.
Hello hello, and welcome back to Week in Review. Last week, I wrote about the possibility of a pending social media detente, this week I’m talking about a rising threat to Facebook’s biz.
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First off, let me tell you how hard it was to resist writing about Quibi this week, but those takes came in very hot the second that news dropped, and I wrote a little bit about it here already. All I will say, is that while Quibi had its own unique mobile problems, unless Apple changes course or dumps a ton of money buying up content to fill its back library, I think TV+ is next on the chopping block.
This week, I’m digging into another once-maligned startup, though this one has activated quite the turnaround in the last two years. Snap, maker of Snapchat, delivered a killer earnings report this week and as a result, investors deemed to send the stock price soaring. Its market cap has nearly doubled since the start of September and it’s clear that Wall Street actually believes that Snap could meaningfully increase its footprint and challenge Facebook.
The company ended the week with a market cap just short of $65 billion, still a far cry from Facebook $811 billion, but looking quite a bit better than it was in early 2019 when it was worth about one-tenth of what it is today. All of a sudden, Snap has a new challenge, living up to high expectations.
The company shared that in Q3, it delivered $679 million in reported revenue, representing 52% year-over-year growth. The company currently has 249 million daily active users, up 4% over last quarter.
Facebook will report its Q3 earnings next week, but they’re still in a different ballpark for the time being, even if their market cap is just around 12 times Snap’s, their quarterly revenue from Q2 was about 28 times higher than what Snap just reported. Meanwhile, Facebook has 1.79 billion daily actives, just about 7 times Snapchat’s numbers.
Snap has spent an awful lot of time proving the worth of features they’ve been pushing for years, but the company’s next challenge might be diversifying their future. The company has been flirting with augmented reality for years, waiting patiently for the right moment to expand its scope, but Snap hasn’t had the luxury of diverting resources away from efforts that don’t send users back to its core product. Some of its biggest launches of 2020 have been embeddable mini apps for things like ordering movie tickets or bite-sized social games that bring even more social opportunities into chat.
Snap’s laser focus here has obviously been a big part of its recovery, but as expectations grow, so will demands that the company moves more boldly into extending its empire. I don’t think Snapchat needs to buy Trader Joe’s or its own ISP quite yet, but working towards finding its next platform will prevent the service from settling for Twitter-sized ambitions and give them a chance at finding a more expansive future.
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin
Trends of the Week
These next few weeks are guaranteed to be dominated by U.S. election news, so enjoy the diversity of news happenings out there while it lasts…
Quibi is dead Few companies that have raised so much money have appeared quite dead-on-arrival as Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile video startup Quibi. This week, the company made the decision to shut down operations and call it quits. More here.
Pakistan unbans TikTok It appears that the cascading threat of country-by-country TikTok bans has stopped for now. This week, TikTok was unblocked in Pakistan with the government warning the company that it needed to actively monitor content or it would face a permanent ban. Read more here.
Facebook Dating arrives in Europe Facebook Dating hasn’t done much to unseat Tinder stateside, but the service didn’t even get the chance to test its luck in Europe due to some regulatory issues relating to its privacy practices. Now, it seems Facebook has landed in the tentative good graces of regulatory bodies and has gotten the go ahead to launch the service in a number of European countries. Read more here.