Threads: The Story So Far

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, businesses and public figures have been looking for alternatives, and Meta’s new text-based app, Threads, may be the answer. 10 million users signed up within seven hours of its launch on 5th July – a promising start. Engagement has dropped since then, but it is expected to rise once again.  

According to Meta, “Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas. Just like on Instagram, with Threads you can follow and connect with friends and creators who share your interests – including the people you follow on Instagram and beyond.” 

This article reviews what we know about Threads so far – its key features, early growth statistics, future plans and more.  

How Does Threads Work?  

The user experience of Threads is similar to that of Twitter. Users can post text of up to 500 characters (compared to Twitter’s 280-character limit), as well as images, and videos up to five minutes in length.     

The user’s account is connected to their Instagram account, so they sign in using the same login. This ease of access is one factor that made the platform grow in popularity so rapidly. However, only existing Instagram users can access Threads at the moment; there is no option to create a Threads account without having an Instagram account.  

Key Features of Threads 

Aside from the post options mentioned above, other features include:  

  • A mention button to mention other users in posts. 
  • The option to share a thread to Instagram DMs 
  • The option to edit alt text for images and videos (this was not possible initially). 
  • A “For You” page with recommended content.  
  • A feed showing posts from followed accounts as well as recommended content. 
  • A “Following” tab that displays posts from followers chronologically. 
  • An area to view liked posts (“Your Likes”). 
  • A follow button so that private accounts can approve follow requests. 
  • Post translation based on the user’s language settings. Users need to tap the ‘translation’ button in the bottom right corner of the post to see it in their language.  
  • Accessibility features including screen-reader support.  
  • Users can access Instagram’s safety controls i.e., reporting profiles, unfollowing, blocking and restricting.  
  • Users keep their Instagram username and bring their followers across – a big advantage in terms of engagement as existing communities are transferred to the platform rather than needing to be built from scratch.  

Threads moderates content in a similar way to Instagram, using the same community guidelines and content warnings.  

A Threads account can only be deleted if the corresponding Instagram account is deleted. Due to the legal requirements for users to be able to opt out, Meta needs to address this.  

What is the Difference Between Threads and Twitter?  

While Threads provides a similar experience to Twitter, there are a few features they do not share. Threads does not currently have:  

  • Direct messaging 
  • Trending topics 
  • The option to edit a post after publishing  
  • Advertising options 
  • Post drafts 
  • Hashtags 
  • An effective search feature 
  • The option to embed posts elsewhere 

Early Growth Statistics of Threads 

As mentioned, its integration with Instagram was one factor behind the viral popularity of Threads. In addition, many dissatisfied Twitter users were just waiting for the opportunity to switch to a new platform after Musk made unpopular changes such as a daily read limit, paid verification, and only allowing paid accounts to use TweetDeck, a tool for scheduling tweets.  

With that said, not quite so many Twitter users fled the platform as expected, as Data from GWS reveals that Twitter is retaining its number of daily users. In the UK, 30% of daily Threads users are also on Twitter, while only 2.5% of Twitter’s daily users are on Threads. Data for the US is similar, with 45% of Threads users also on Twitter and only 2.8% of Twitter users on Threads.   

Regardless, the platform continued to see impressive growth beyond the first day:  

  • The app had 30 million downloads within 24 hours of its launch and within one week, the total user count was 100 million (TechTarget). In comparison, it took ChatGPT two months to gain 100 million users while for TikTok, it took nine months (Search Logistics).    
  • The app saw more than 95 million posts in the first 24 hours and 190 million likes.  
  • By 7th July (two days after launch), Threads had 44 million daily active users (Sensor Tower). 
  • The majority of users are Gen Z’ers and of the total user base, 68% are male and 32%, female (Search Logistics).  
  • In the initial days after its launch, users spent an average of 15 minutes per day on the app over an average of 9.4 sessions.  
  • The majority of users are from India (22%), the UK (20%), Brazil (16%), and the US (14%) (Search Logistics).  
  • By the end of July, the platform had only 8 million daily active users, an 82% drop from its peak (Sensor Tower). Regardless, Zuckerberg has stated that he is still optimistic about the app and the number of initial signups was more than he ever expected.  

The Future of Threads 

The success of Threads will depend on how well it continues to engage users after the initial hype subsides. The obvious first step here would be to add the key features the platform is missing (such as direct messaging and post editing) and to do so as soon as possible. Perhaps the decline in active users is due to the sub-optimal experience caused by the lack of such features.  

Threads Website  

Initially, Threads was only available as an app but that’s set to change this week when is launched. This may cause a spike in the number of active users and attract additional users that prefer not to use mobile apps.  

While Gen Z hardly have a problem using apps, the web experience will be more convenient for those using the app for professional purposes. Websites also provide better accessibility and privacy, generally speaking, and enable more convenient shareability options.  

Integration with ActivityPub 

One impending development is the use of ActivityPub, a protocol for the decentralised interoperability of social media apps. ActivityPub enables what is known as the fediverse, which is simply another way to say that different social media platforms will interact.  

Integration with ActivityPub would mean that users could view content and interact with users on other platforms through their Threads account (this only works with platforms that are also using ActivityPub, such as Mastodon).   

This would also mean that users on platforms that are not owned by Meta could still access Threads content and users, removing the current issue that the platform is only available to Instagram users.

When Will Threads Launch in the EU? 

Threads is available in more than 100 countries so far. However, it’s not yet available in the EU due to privacy rules. Its expansion into the European market may be vital for its long-term success, but it may it months before it is able to do so.  

According to Threads’ privacy disclosure, the app may collect a wide range of data including health and financial data, as well as so-called sensitive information, and Meta have referred to European regulation as a reason that they do not have plans to launch in Europe yet.  

The new Digital Markets Act (DMA) may bring more obstacles, preventing businesses from tracking users outside their core platform without consent.  

The purpose of the DMA is to enable more innovation among online platforms in the EU by preventing so-called gatekeepers (large tech companies) from monopolising the market through anticompetitive terms and conditions. Consumers will then potentially have more choice and more flexibility when it comes to switching providers.  

Meta’s Previous Failed Apps 

In 2019, Meta released another app – also called Threads – which was shut down within two years (the app was a messaging app linked to Instagram and not the same concept as the new Threads). This was not an isolated incident.  

Again, their success will largely depend on engaging users through in-demand features and perhaps, proving the experience that Twitter users are looking for and not finding on Twitter due to the changes Musk has been making. Supporting advertising may be another important step for retaining business users.  

In Summary 

Threads has certainly made a dramatic entrance into the market. Its initial surge in popularity, closely linked to its integration with Instagram and the dissatisfaction of Twitter users, showcased its potential to become a formidable competitor.  

Threads has been adding new features since its launch and the release of the web version is a promising step forward. Another key advantage is that Instagram users transfer their username and followers across, and so the platform has begun with strong communities.   

Expansion into the EU market would boost the user count but with the current regulatory obstacles, they will need to continue improving the experience for existing users.  

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