In the last couple of weeks, Meta Platforms has been squaring up as a direct competitor to Twitter, the popular microblogging site, with an app called Threads.
The new platform has taken social media by storm, boasting an incredible 100 million sign-ups in less than a week. Its rapid adoption has made everyone sit up and take notice.
Does Twitter finally have a serious competitor in the social media space?
Threads bears many similarities to Twitter, but does it have the social media chops to carve out a unique identity? Is it sufficiently different to make a big enough splash in the world of real-time, short-form content sharing?
This article takes a deep dive into what Threads is about, its noteworthy features, and the implications of yet another app making the rounds in the constantly evolving social media landscape.
Meta Threads Rapid Rise
Unsurprisingly, any new contender for the short-form media throne is bound to be a hot topic.
After all, Twitter has had the microblogging space virtually to itself for almost two decades. But, with a 100-million sign-ups in less than a week, even a billionaire like Elon Musk could find himself regretting a newly acquired 43 billion money pit that’s done nothing for his finances but siphon off profits.
A Quick Overview of Threads
Threads was launched on July 5, 2023, in more than 100 countries, with the Instagram team taking responsibility for its launch. The new app is designed to enable text-based conversation, positioning itself squarely as a rival to Twitter.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta Platforms, recently reported on the app’s remarkable traction. One hundred million sign-ups within five days of its launch provide no shortage of bragging rights.
For comparison, Open AI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, reached a similar milestone of 100 million monthly active users, but that took two months.
It remains to be seen if Threads’ rapid growth is because the app resonates with an adoring public or if people just want to see what the fuss is about. A tsunami of new sign-ups bodes well but does not necessarily guarantee its long-term survival.
Threads isn’t just a Twitter facsimile. As a platform, it has a distinctive look and feel to differentiate itself. The platform allows members to publish short posts or updates of up to 500 characters, supporting links, photos, or videos lasting up to five minutes. You can also easily share a Threads post on your Instagram Stories.
One of the remarkable features of Threads is its simple sign-up process. Users must sign in with their Instagram credentials, keeping their existing username, followers, and verification status.
It’s an easy transfer that undoubtedly had something to do with the app’s speedy adoption, making the connection with Instagram a masterstroke indeed.
As for Twitter, it boasted 259 million daily active users by the end of 2022, whereas Instagram handles over 1.39 billion daily active users. The scale can tip in any direction, but Threads’ initial success should cause some concern to those with a financial stake in Twitter’s now uncertain future.
Ironically, the surge in popularity of Threads has happened at the same time as Twitter limiting the number of tweets you can read daily. These restrictions were quickly reversed, but their impact on user behavior could have a lasting impact.
The move forced many long-time Twitter users to consider alternatives at a time when Twitter could ill-afford an exodus. In this context, Threads’ timing couldn’t be more perfect, offering a different yet familiar enough environment to connect with a disgruntled Twitter audience.
Creating an Account on Threads
Getting started on Threads is simplicity itself, especially if you are a regular on Instagram.
Simply download the app on iOS or Android and sign in with your Instagram credentials. The app will ask a few simple questions for setting up your account, including privacy options. If you have multiple Instagram accounts, you can pick the one you want to use.
The last step involves deciding whom to follow on Threads. You can individually scroll through the accounts you follow on Instagram or select specific accounts. If you’re like me and would rather not spend time curating your following list, you can follow all your Instagram connections on Threads with a single tap — just hit ‘Follow all.’
After successful registration, Threads will present you with your feed, which will look familiar to anyone comfortable with any social media platform.
You have the “Home, Search, and New Post” icons along the lower portion of the app. The activity icon is next, which is where you can see your recent activity, including recent follows, who is following you, replies, and other activity from verified users.
The final icon takes you to your account profile, where you can review your recent threads and a historical record of replies you have made.
At first glance, there’s little to differentiate Threads from Twitter. However, the differences quickly become apparent once you start using the app.
While Twitter limits users to 280 characters, Threads gives users a generous 500-character limit, giving users more space to express themselves.
The news feed on threads is not chronological. Instead, the Twitter contender has opted for an algorithmic feed that attempts to discern your preferences as you browse. Instagram users will feel instantly at home, but you may be surprised at the volume of posts in your feed that are not from people you follow.
While Threads has captured the attention of millions in record time, it is still a newcomer in the social media realm and has been lumbered with some notable limitations.
One of the main issues sparking controversy among early adopters and influencers is the inability to delete a Threads account without also deleting the associated Instagram account.
This limitation has been a sore point for many users who wish to maintain separate identities or would like to remove their Threads presence without undermining their Instagram activity.
A non-chronological feed as the only option has also attracted a fair amount of ire from users. Feeds are currently populated with a mix of posts from people you follow, with the algorithm filling out the feed with posts according to what it thinks you want to see.
Users more accustomed to Twitter’s chronological timeline have found this browsing style off putting. Tracking real-time conversations or updates is more complex than it should be.
Having to share user options with an Instagram account has also rubbed many users the wrong way. For example, if you want to keep your likes private on Threads, you must also hide them on Instagram and vice versa.
Fortunately, Meta monitors users’ feedback closely and has promised to address many of the app’s early shortcomings.
Leaders at Meta have big plans for Threads. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, shared some features that may come to Threads. These include:
A feed that shows posts in order: This means you would see posts in the order they were made.
A feed just for people you follow: You will soon be able to filter posts so you only see posts from your friends or people you choose to follow.
Deleting your Threads account: Meta is working on a way to delete Threads without having to delete your Instagram too.
Better search methods: To help you quickly find what you want on Threads.
Hashtags: You will soon be able to use hashtags just like you do on Twitter and Instagram.
Messaging: It may be possible to send direct messages as you can on Instagram.
ActivityPub Support: Threads could soon have the ability to link up with other social media platforms that are part of the “Fediverse.”
Options for Multiple Accounts: You can have as many Threads accounts as Instagram accounts, but you must log out and back in with each profile. A planned upgrade is for users to be able to switch between accounts without leaving the app.
These upcoming features could make Threads a stronger competitor to other social networks. They show that Meta is committed to improving Threads and making it a place where people want to hang out online.
Threads Vs. Twitter
Threads and Twitter have a lot in common, but it’s where it does things differently that will make it a worthy competitor. Here’s how they stack up:
1. User-Friendliness: In its current form, Threads feels like a simpler version of Twitter. It’s easy and quick to get the hang of.
2. Character Limit: On Twitter, you can write up to 280 characters in a post. Threads increases the character limit to 500 characters.
3. Feed Type: Twitter shows posts in reverse order, with the newest ones first. Threads show posts based on what the algorithm believes you want to see.
Even though Threads resembles Twitter in many ways, it’s trying to do its own thing. It seems it has the worthy goal of providing an easier, friendlier space for people to chat and share. Only time will tell if it reaches its goal and who will end up on top.
Threads isn’t the only app trying to challenge Twitter. There are a few others out there:
Bluesky: Backed by Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey, Bluesky has 180,000 users, but almost 2 million are waiting to join!
Mastodon: This app has more than 7 million active users but a total of around 1.5 million active accounts.
GETTR: This alt-tech social media platform has 7.5 million users in 192 countries.
Truth Social: Trump’s Truth Social has 2 million active users and is only accessible to US and Canada residents.
While these apps all want to be like Twitter, none of them pose as much of a threat as Threads as they each target a specific demographic. That could change, though. In social media, anything can happen. Google+ bombed, but TikTok arrived and quickly took the world by storm.
Threads is brand new, but it’s getting a lot of attention for all the right reasons, for example:
It’s the Fastest Growing App in History: Threads hit 100 million users in just five days, dwarfing even ChatGPT’s phenomenal growth!
Stock Market Success: Meta’s stock price has increased by more than 140% this year. That’s a big deal, even for a mega company like Meta! Was the increase in value because of Threads? We may never know.
It Launched in 100 Countries, Except the EU: We are likely to see it released there soon, but for now, there are privacy regulation issues that Meta needs to address.
It’s Not the First App to Be Called Threads: Instagram launched an app called Threads way back in 2019. It failed miserably, only attracting around 200,000 users before it was phased out and its feature set rolled into Instagram.
Threads has achieved amazing things in its short life, so it’s exciting to think about what could happen next.
What Does the Future Hold for Threads
We don’t know how the future of Threads will play out. Still, it’s fun to make educated guesses based on what we know about it and the unpredictable social media landscape.
More Growth: Threads reached 100 million users quicker than any previous app. If it continues at this pace, it could reach 1 billion users faster than Facebook or Instagram. Our prediction is supported by the social media trend of users always looking for something new and refreshing.
Monetization: Threads is currently free of advertisements. However, with future growth, it might incorporate ads to generate revenue. While CEO Zuckerberg said that Thread’s monetization is not the immediate concern, the strategic focus could shift as the user base expands.
Enhanced Features: Currently, Threads is a relatively straightforward platform. But, planned features, such as a chronological feed, hashtags, and a direct messaging function, will likely make the app more appealing to a broader audience.
Stiff Competition: Threads seems poised to disrupt Twitter’s long-standing dominance of real-time public conversation on social media. With a well-established pedigree like Facebook and Instagram propping it up, Threads is a real contender for giving Twitter a run for its money.
Are You Ready for a Fresh Social Media Experience?
Meta’s Threads is a new player making a strong impression on social media. By building off Instagram’s large user base, Threads has quickly gained traction.
However, it’s still early days, and some features need refinement. Current users, excited by the fresh approach to real-time chatting, eagerly await Threads to expand its capabilities.
Yet, as Threads is actively developed and more features are added, it can potentially change the online conversation game. There’s a good chance Threads has a long and prosperous future, so keep an eye on this fledgling platform or jump in and join the fun.
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Will Zhao is a seasoned technology expert and entrepreneur and has spent over a decade working at leading tech companies like Facebook and Airbnb. His expertise spans various domains in the tech industry, including product development and growth, machine learning / AI, and cloud infrastructure. Inspired by his passion for empowering individuals and businesses, Will founded SoftGist to provide expert insights that help people navigate the complexities of technology and succeed in the tech and business world. Will holds a Master of Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University.