The rivalry between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg has intensified with the official unveiling of Meta’s new app, Threads, aimed at challenging Twitter. Referred to by some as a potential “Twitter killer,” Threads is being launched as a companion to Meta’s popular photo-sharing network, Instagram. Similar to Twitter, the app is designed to foster public conversations, a core feature that has set Twitter apart over the years.
Expressing his vision for Threads, Zuckerberg took to his own Threads account and stated, “I believe there should be a public conversations app with a user base of over 1 billion people. While Twitter has had the opportunity to accomplish this, they haven’t quite nailed it. Hopefully, we will.”
“The goal of Threads is to establish a welcoming and interactive public platform for conversations, Our aim is to leverage the strengths of Instagram and introduce a fresh approach centered on text, ideas, and engaging discussions.” stated the CEO of Meta during the app’s launch.
Within just seven hours of its release, the app has garnered an impressive ten million sign-ups. However, the question remains: Can Threads successfully challenge the dominant position held by Twitter in the social media landscape?
What is Threads?
The Threads app, developed by Instagram, was originally scheduled for a later release in the month. However, the launch date was rescheduled to Thursday but was ultimately revealed on Wednesday. Meta, in its description, refers to Threads as a platform that fosters a positive and creative environment for expressing ideas. The app is specifically designed for sharing text updates and engaging in public conversations.
In a blog post on Wednesday, Meta stated, “Our aim with Threads is to build upon Instagram’s strengths and expand them to encompass text, providing a positive and creative space for expressing your ideas. Just like Instagram, Threads enables you to connect with friends and creators who have similar interests, including individuals you follow on Instagram and beyond.“
How does the app work?
In order to sign up for Threads, users are required to possess an Instagram account. Their Instagram handle will serve as their username on the new app. Verified users on Instagram will also receive a blue checkmark on Threads. Similarly to the photo-sharing platform, users have the option to set their Threads accounts as either public or private. For users under the age of 16 (or 18 in specific regions), their profile will automatically be set to private. Users have the ability to follow the same accounts they do on Instagram and discover additional users who share similar interests and passions.
How is Threads different from Twitter?
Threads and Twitter share similar functions, but there are notable differences between the two. Threads enable users to create posts consisting of up to 500 characters, accompanied by links, photos, and videos of up to five minutes in length. Twitter, on the other hand, has a character limit of 280 for regular users, while Twitter Blue subscribers can go up to 10,000 characters and have access to text formatting options like bold and italic. In terms of the feed, Threads adopts an algorithmic approach similar to Instagram. It curates content based on the people users follow, their consumption patterns, and recommendations derived from them. Twitter, however, offers users a choice between an algorithmic feed and a chronological feed consisting only of posts from the accounts they follow. One notable difference is that Threads does not currently have a direct messaging feature, although Instagram has expressed the possibility of adding such features based on user feedback as the app continues to evolve.
The major distinction between Threads and Twitter lies in Threads’ future potential to work across multiple apps. Instagram aims to create a seamless experience for Threads across different platforms. This can be especially beneficial for creators and influencers, as it allows them to take their followers with them to other platforms that utilize the same technology. This innovation reduces the risk for creators and provides them with more flexibility, rather than feeling locked into a single platform. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, highlighted the advantages of this approach to The New York Times (NYT), stating that creators who have built a substantial following on Threads can expand their presence to other platforms without starting from scratch. This concept aligns with the functionality of Mastodon, another social network that operates similarly. Threads and Twitter have similarities in function, the potential for cross-platform compatibility sets Threads apart and offers creators and influencers a greater sense of freedom and expansion in the digital landscape.
Is Threads a Threat to Twitter?
Since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last year, there have been several changes that are pushing users toward rival social media platforms. The latest change, announced on Monday, restricts access to Tweetdeck, a customizable dashboard often used by businesses, to only verified users. Twitter has started limiting the number of tweets people can read, a decision that has faced criticism from users. While alternatives to Twitter like Mastodon, Post, T2, and Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky exist, they have not been able to match the popularity of Musk’s microblogging website. This presents an opportunity for Threads, which has entered the market at a time when Twitter’s popularity has waned.
Analysts speculate that investors are excited about Threads’ association with Instagram, which could provide it with an existing user base and advertising platform. This potential competition could divert advertising revenue away from Twitter as the company’s new CEO attempts to revive its struggling business. Meta stocks closed with a three percent increase on Wednesday, surpassing gains made by competing tech companies as the broader market experienced a downturn. Twitter’s value has declined since Musk’s acquisition for $44 billion in October 2022, resulting in an exodus of advertisers. In such circumstances, brands may be more inclined to invest in Threads to capitalize on the initial buzz. The timing seems advantageous for Meta to make an impact, as months of Musk’s unpredictable decision-making have disrupted Twitter. “It’s going to be more palatable and brand safe than what’s being offered over on Twitter,” stated Matt Navarra, a social media consultant who has worked with Meta, Google, and Pinterest, in an interview with Reuters.
What challenges does Threads face?
The success of Twitter is primarily attributed to its focus on news and real-time updates, while Instagram has established itself as a more visually-oriented platform. Jasmine Enberg, a principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, stated in an interview with Reuters that Twitter’s main use cases still revolve around keeping up with news and global events. It is unlikely that dedicated Twitter users, who are drawn to the platform for its news-focused culture, would immediately shift their loyalty to Threads. However, that’s not the only challenge Threads faces. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has had past failures in creating copycat platforms, notably with the Lasso app, which aimed to compete with the short video sensation TikTok.
In the fast-growing social media landscape, photos and short videos have emerged as powerful tools. TikTok has been particularly successful in building a platform centered around short-form content. The key to success lies in how the content is curated with the assistance of AI. In terms of network size, bigger is generally better. Meta holds an advantage in this regard, as its empire thrives on a vast network. Nonetheless, newer platforms have also recognized the importance of network-building. Instagram’s focus on photos and Snapchat’s implementation of disappearing posts showcase how even minor tweaks in the business model or platform design can have a significant impact on success in the social media industry.
While advertising has traditionally been a primary revenue stream, the Fortune report suggests that subscription services like Twitter Blue and Snapchat Plus could play a substantial role in enhancing the monetization of social media platforms. According to the report, the platform that successfully becomes the “everything app” could emerge as the winner in this race. The future of both Twitter and Threads hinges on whether Elon Musk can materialize his vision of an all-encompassing app. Presently, Mark Zuckerberg might have the upper hand, but the ultimate outcome of the battle between him and Musk remains to be seen.