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Threads: Meta’s Twitter Competitor Hits the Market

Last Updated: December 4, 2023
Boardroom breaks down Twitter’s latest microblogging competitor — the Meta-developed Threads, which will eventually offer decentralized services.

Millions of users — and scorned tweeters — are flocking to Threads, Instagram’s new text-based conversation app.

In Threads’ first seven hours on the market, it garnered 10 million signups, Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed on the app. As of this writing, it has amassed more than 30 million new users. Zuckerberg’s timing in launching Threads was impeccable as users grow more furious with Elon Musk following the Twitter owner’s decision to temporarily limit daily tweet views to 1,000 for unverified accounts and 10,000 for verified accounts.

Let’s take a look at what the newest viral app on the market can do and where it’s headed in the Big Tech ecosystem.

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The Threads Origin

Threads hit the market hot on July 5 with no Beta testing period and no limit on signups. Anyone and everyone could get on the app by simply downloading it via the iOS and Android app stores. Threads is available worldwide in more than 100 countries, though not in the European Union as Meta is still addressing potential regulatory concerns there.

Instagram describes Threads as a “separate space for real-time updates and public conversations.” This first version is pretty simple, but the app will expand to eventually offer decentralized services. Threads will support an open-source protocol called ActivityPub, which already powers Mastodon, and will allow users to interact with each other on different social media networks. This protocol will give users more control over their audiences and be able to interact with social networkers on any compatible platform.

Remember Instagram Notes? Threads is the likely evolution of that feature. Its ideation kicked off last fall after Musk officially acquired Twitter in October. Its development began in January with a core team within Instagram. Before opening the floodgates to mass access on July 5, select Instagram users, celebrities, and content creators got to try Threads. Some notable early adopters include Oprah Winfrey, Netflix, Gordon Ramsay, ASOS, Jennifer Lopez, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Pretty Little Thing, HuffPost’s Phil Lewis, Shakira, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and many more.

How It Works

Threads operates solely as an app with no website at this point. It’s free to access and welcomes users to integrate all of their Instagram information, followings, and verification status as soon as they sign up. Users can also opt to create a new account from scratch.

Users under 16 (or 18 in certain countries) will default to private profiles, but users who meet the age criteria can have open accounts. Threaders can launch off 500-character threads with words, images, or links (which won’t count against that character count, yay!). Some familiar features on the app include reposting, quote posting, using the @ sign to directly speak or reply to someone, and the ability to doom scroll on a feed loaded with text-based content. Much like Instagram, Threads takes after Meta’s photo and video orientations, and videos can be up to five minutes long. Some features that are missing from Threads that we’re used to seeing on Twitter include direct messaging, hashtags, trending topics, GIFs (we really need this one, Zuck), an edit button, lists, drafts, and an audio plug-in like Twitter Spaces.

Unfortunately, Threads did inherit Meta’s privacy, moderation, and algorithmic feed practices that spotlight users that interact with Threads exactly how Meta wants. If you opt not to roll over the folks you follow on Instagram, Meta shows you recommended accounts that may either align with your interests or are just brands and content creators they choose to boost. Even when you start to get your following and followers up, recommended accounts still end up on your feed, but you can restrict those in settings and opt to primarily see posts from your follows.

And most importantly, there is a setting for users to change their feeds to only view their followers, despite feeds not displaying in chronological order. At launch, feeds are organized by Threads’ algorithm and what it thinks you want to see, though chronological order could be offered in the future.

The layout for the notifications page is quite interesting since activity can be viewed altogether or through tabs broken down by replies, mentions, and activity from verified accounts. Aesthetically, notifications look quite the same, so it’s hard to distinguish what type of interaction is coming through. Also, it would be nice to have a notifications tab for new followers.

Threads did get a lot right, though, like its crossposting feature, sharing capabilities, and no advertisements (yet). Users can easily cross-post their perfectly cropped threads to their Instagram feeds or stories. Instagram built Threads with the premise of fostering positive and productive conversations, per its blog post announcement. Like most social media networks, Threaders can unfollow, block, restrict, or report users, and they can hide specific words to filter out content.

One important aspect of the interconnectivity between Instagram and Threads is that as long as an Instagram account is live, its Threads counterpart will be too. The only way to delete a Threads account is by deleting the Instagram account linked to it. If you’re new to Threads and already feeling remnants of that old Twitter addiction coming on, the new social media network gives you the option to set reminders to take a break from scrolling and threading.

What’s Next

While other Twitter rivals like Bluesky and Mastadon have gained positive traction, Threads will be the true competition for Twitter right now.

The tech tycoons are really leaning into this opportunity, too. Bluesky CEO Jack Dorsey subtweeted his competitor, alluding that the grass might be greener on his decentralized microblogging platform. While Bluesky had to temporarily close its doors on sign-ups over the weekend, Threads decided to seize the opportunity to bring in millions of users in mere hours. And it’s safe to say Zuckerberg is feeling himself after launching off his first tweet since January 2012. I’m sure we can expect that to be his very last since he’s been spending most of his time on Threads over the last 24 hours.

Following the hype, Instagram will focus on making Threads compatible with the AcrivirtPub protocol and rolling out new features like improved feed recommendations and adding a topical search function.

While Threads has seen massive success in under 24 hours, users and experts on the app think it could reach 100 million accounts in the next two weeks. Instagram has over 2 billion users itself, so imagine if everyone added Threads to their social media catalog. Twitter, which has approximately 400 million active monthly users, would really be in deep trouble.

Success in this industry is about far more than the number of users that get on the app, so we’ll be watching to see if Threads delivers on its promises.

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