A bug meant Twitter Fleets could still be seen after they disappeared
Yesterday, I posted a short blog about the rollout of "Fleets" being paused because of issues with Twitters mobile apps.
Today, another problem has surfaced, one that calls the whole "Fleets" system into question.
- There's a Twitter API that makes it easy to archive Fleets, so even after Twitter deletes them their content could still be available.
- Twitter themselves have admitted that they will be storing Fleets for 30 days or more after their supposed 24 lifespan
Twitter acknowledged that the fix means that fleets should now expire properly, it said it won’t delete the fleet from its servers for up to 30 days — and that it may hold onto fleets for longer if they violate its rules. We checked that we could still load fleets from their direct URLs even after they expire.
Looks like Twitter forgot the fundamental rule that The Internet Is Forever.
Once a piece of content is online, it is impossible to completely prevent it from being copied and stored by other people. The very fact that it has to appear on their screens and come out of their speakers means it can be captured. But, providing an API to download them directly? That was a rather questionable move...
Why would Twitter do it?
Third party apps are really important to Twitter. Their own app is not always the most popular way to access their service, especially amongst social media pros. Tweetdeck (once independent and then bought by Twitter) and Hootsuite lead the pack, but there is a whole ecosystem of products available to help individuals and businesses manage their social media channels. So, if Fleets are going to work in that space, an API is essential. Unfortunately, it also breaks the feature completely.
Can it be fixed?
Probably not. Snapchat, the original "disappearing social media message" platform held off on offering an API for years and when it did open one up, it was one way only - developers could post to Snapchat but retrieving data was not allowed.
Twitter aren't in the same place but if Fleets are going to be less of a confusing mess, they need to clean up their API and probably block read access to Fleets completely.
Are Fleets good for SEO and should you be "Fleeting"?
All social media posts have a short half life but Fleets should, by their nature, disappear. So, for search engines, there's nothing to link to - ergo they aren't going to help your SEO.
Fleets, like tweets, can be good short term traffic boosters especially if you are working in a space where your competitors haven't yet adopted them. Just make sure that the content of your fleets is worth your followers time in clicking through them...
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