The Emperor’s New ‘Threads’

Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter, launched the other week and the initial reaction to this has been mixed. Thanks to Twitter’s falling popularity, a growing desire for a successful replacement and the connection to and ease of setting up an account through Instagram. 

So far, 70 million users have signed up to the platform, although it remains to be seen if that will translate into active and engaged users in the long term. At the moment, Threads has decided against launching in the EU due to the stringent data protection laws in that geographic area, which will certainly affect global performance, especially with regards to brands in the EU unable to use Threads. Indeed, in the countries Threads has launched in, concerns have already been widely reported regarding the data collecting policy users must agree to for an account.

There is also concern that once activated, a Thread account can not be deleted without also deleting the Instagram account linked to it – however, it can be ‘deactivated’ without losing your Instagram account.

Meta has had previous success imitating competitors, with Instagram Stories mimicking Snapchat’s short videos; available for 24 hours, and use of filters. When TikTok exploded in popularity, Meta quickly replicated their user experience with their own version, Instagram Reels. It was no surprise that they intended on doing the same with Twitter, only that they waited as long as they did. This has ended up working in their favour, as Twitter is increasingly losing public favour. Other platforms have attempted to take over as the premier microblogging destination (Mastodon, T2, and BlueSky to name but a few), but have not reached the ubiquitous presence of Twitter as yet.  

Functionally speaking, Threads operates very similarly to Twitter. Real time, short form content and a home page feed which curates content from accounts you follow, accounts ‘you may like’. At the moment Threads does not feature adverts, but given the amount of data it will collect, there is very little doubt it will soon.

Mark Zuckerberg has stated there are no plans to monetise Threads until there is a ‘clear path’ to 1 billion users. Threads has a 500 character limit (versus basic Twitter having a 280 character limit) and offers the ability to upload up to 5 minutes of video (basic Twitter currently offers 2 minutes 20 seconds). 

Threads however, does not support the use of hashtags or even Direct Messaging (these features are available on Instagram), does not curate Trending Stories and perhaps the most important function – long requested by many Twitter users – the ability to edit their posted content. More recently, this has been a selling point for Twitter Blue, which allows editing, longer Tweets, and verification.

Threads offers verification through Instagram, which at present is an application process which is deceptively simple to complete, but notoriously difficult to successfully get verified. 

Threads also does not operate a desktop version, being an app only service. 

These limitations may well work in Meta’s favour, as there is a growing fatigue in the effort to build and maintain various social media platforms, both in personal and commercial accounts. The difficulty in creating engaging content suited to each platform increases with each additional option, and one with no hashtags or trending options may be attractive to people looking for a new platform. Stripping things back to basics may be a feature, not a bug. 

Time will tell if Threads will begin to offer more features Twitter is known for, either for free or as part of a premium service. Right now, the excitement and intrigue of Meta finally launching a Twitter-like service and the response to it is the story most news articles are reporting on.

Long term, Threads path is still unclear. Based on previous successes copycatting their competitors’ USPs it seems safe to say it will be a success, but how much of a success? Instagram Stories and Reels are popular, but not popular enough to topple the platform that inspired them. Snapchat and TikTok are still going strong, with TikTok especially still growing ever more popular despite their own set of issues and legal woes.

Threads may be a success without truly affecting Twitter. It’s a realistic outcome but it seems, not one people are hoping for. Whether a true desire to see Twitter finally fold, or simply watching 2 billionaires squabble, Threads v. Twitter is now in the ring. 

Whatever happens, the battle for microblogging supremacy has a new challenger in Threads that may just be big enough to beat Twitter at a time when the blue bird app is struggling more and more to regain its reputation and user loyalty.

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