After it was quietly dropped on Apple’s App Store this week, Meta’s Threads is officially here to take on Twitter.
The new platform has widely been referred to as a "Twitter Killer" by techies and the media. The app, which was developed by Instagram, looks remarkably similar to the early days of the now-Elon Musk-owned Twitter. It is meant to focus on text, with a 500-character limit per post. Photos and videos are allowed, though there is a 5-minute limit on clips. In the first seven hours, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said more than 10 million people signed up.
“We're going into a complete social media era where short-form content dominates, and that's why you've seen social media platforms like TikTok do absolutely crazy,” Luke Lintz, CEO of the digital and social media agency High Key Enterprises, told Cheddar News. “Short form content is the ideal way that millennials, Gen Z are consuming content on social media.”
For now, you need an Instagram account to have a Threads account. Eventually, the company has plans to make it part of the ActivityPub protocol, which would give it open-source capabilities. This means people can study and analyze the code for full transparency or use it across apps. Other microblogging apps like Mastodon offer this feature.
“Meta’s new ‘Twitter-like’ Threads marks yet another copycat move by the company,” Mike Proulx, Forrester vice president, research director said via email. “But this launch is different than its previous attempts at competitive clones. Unlike TikTok (when Meta launched Reels) or Snapchat (when Meta launched Slingshot), Twitter’s in a state decline. Meta is banking on a moment in time where there’s peak Twitter user unrest.”
In response to a user asking if Threads could become bigger than Twitter, Zuckerberg posted "It'll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion plus people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn't nailed it. Hopefully we will."
The number of global Twitter users is expected to decline 16 percent in the U.S. between May 2023 and 2025, according to Insider Intelligence. Changes like making many features subscription-only and limiting the number of tweets you can see a day have upset users. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri told The New York Times it saw a chance, noting, “There was an opportunity or demand for more people to play in the public space.”
Threads microblogging platform presents a great advertising opportunity. Twitter earned $5.1 billion in 2021, the last full year it posted revenue before Musk took it private. It has long been known as an effective medium to bring awareness to a brand. Now Meta, which is seeing ad declines across its portfolio, could use a new offering as ad buyers are a little more stingy with budgets.
The hardest part about launching a new app is building a follower base from scratch. Threads eases some of that friction by allowing users the ability to import their follower list from Instagram. When it fully becomes open source it will be even easier to bring followers from other platforms and share content.
“That's the future of these big social media platforms,” High Key’s Lintz said. “If Facebook, Instagram, and Threads were all connected with one another – where your followers were shared between all three of them – it would be massive because creators spent so much time building their social media audience on one specific platform. Having it shared between other platforms that share different types of content. It just makes total sense.”
At launch, Threads's features are very limited: post, repost, like, or reply, however, Instagram said it will add new features based on user demand.
One person who isn’t buying the Threads hype is Elon Musk. He tweeted, "It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram.” He has deleted his Instagram account.