March 9, 2021
Imitation is the best form of flattery – rarely is an idea fully formed at the start. The technical birthplace of wireless is in the Netherlands, where WaveLAN (an early form of the still nascent wireless networking standard) was introduced with the intent for use in cashier systems. Retail was one of the birthplaces of this now global communications system, and after a mere three decades of innovation, Wi-Fi has advanced specifically to grant me the gift of talking to my grandmother’s forehead in super high definition from the comfort of my sofa, and her from the comfort of her ceiling. All these discrete ideas are cogs in an ideation machine, if you will, and where they end up is often a mystery.
Turning to social media
So, let’s dial back the scope a bit, and look at the latest news around Twitter. Fleets (for ideas that are fleeting, which should be a jingle) is largely the same as Instagram or Snapchat Stories. Yet, it misses key features such as playful editing tools and AR effects.
This week, Twitter has taken its first steps towards expanding your Fleet options – adding ‘Twemoji’ stickers for Fleets in Japan (Twemoji doesn’t roll of the tongue like Fleets, so, no jingle). It is inevitable that these options will keep expanding, eventually adding AR functionality and other editing tools, but Twitter is at the back of the pack, adding features that other platforms have already introduced, evolved and fine tuned into powerful editing tools we would have only dreamed of back in the day.
Why do I sound whelmed?
Because I am. Expanding on someone else’s ideas is a huge part of our society, and is often encouraged within the confines of the law (let’s say that all copyright/trademark/legalities are observed and then ignore that part of the topic).
The video game industry, for instance, has a huge history of this. id Software’s Doom, which released back in 1993, was massively influential as it popularised the first-person shooter. Without it, we wouldn’t have today’s Call of Duty’s, Battlefields, etc. There is an argument to be made for id Software being able to patent that technology, or the field of view. Other companies have patented innovations in video games in the past – Namco came up with the idea for including mini games during loading screens, and then infamously patented it and promptly did absolutely nothing with the idea, preventing multiple generations of video game consoles from innovating on this idea and alleviating the tedium of loading screens. Now, when the patent has finally run out, technology has advanced to the point where we are at the cusp of eliminating loading screens altogether. If id Software, or some other company, had patented and succeeded in protecting the idea of the first-person shooter, we might have an entire genre of videogames that never existed.
Bringing it back
What I’m saying with all this, is that innovation requires looking at competitors and embellishing on their ideas, and I am whelmed, because Fleets is merely following in other’s footsteps. Fleets has taken its first steps along the same path already laid out, brick by brick, by Instagram and Facebook. We know that road ends, or at least, we can track where it will go; we just need to look at Instagram and Facebook first. I feel as if that’s a shame – a missed opportunity to do something wildly different with Fleets, setting it apart and taking a stance.
And yet, a tiny little glimmer of hope exists, if you care enough to feel discouraged. There is some talk of including Twitter’s audio Tweets within the Fleets composer options. That’s it. That’s all the hope there is, and it isn’t even specifically for Fleets, but it’s a feature Instagram and Facebook lack, so I want to applaud it. Here’s to something more dramatic and different that pushes the entire medium of Fleets/Stories forward.