Explained: What’s Meta's new platform 'Threads'; is it a threat to Twitter?
Threads, Meta’s new platform that aims to take on Twitter, took off with a bang with 5 million users signing up within just four of its launch on Thursday (July 6). “Threads just passed 2 million sign ups in the first two hours,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted earlier.
Called Threads, the new offering is billed as a text-based version of Meta’s photo-sharing app Instagram that the company says provides “a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations”.
It would be interesting to see whether Threads will outperform Twitter. A section of people felt that Meta will have an advantage of its Instagram links as it will provide the new platform with a ready user base at a time when Elon Musk and new Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino are grappling to revive the business. However, others opined that Twitter has a news-oriented outlook that Instagram, primarily a visual platform, will find difficult to replace.
How to get started with Threads?
Users can download the app from Google Play or Apple App Store before simply using their Instagram account to log in. Your Instagram username and verification will carry over, with the option to customise your profile specifically for Threads. Everyone who is under 16 (or under 18 in certain countries) will be defaulted into a private profile when they join Threads. You can choose to follow the same accounts you do on Instagram, and find more people who care about the same things you do.
If you’re already logged on to Instagram, Threads will only ask for permission, meaning you won’t need to add login details again. Therefore, Instagram users will be able to log in with their existing usernames and follow the same accounts on the new app. New users will have to set up an Instagram account.
The core accessibility features available on Instagram today, such as screen reader support and AI-generated image descriptions, are also enabled on Threads. Your feed on Threads includes threads posted by people you follow, and recommended content from new creators you haven’t discovered yet.
Is there any character limit for a post on Threads?
Posts can be up to 500 characters long, which is more than Twitter’s 280-character threshold, and can include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. You can easily share a Threads post to your Instagram story, or share your post as a link on any other platform you choose.
Meta emphasised measures to keep users safe, including enforcing Instagram’s community guidelines and providing tools to control who can mention or reply to users.
Threads has been built with tools to enable positive, productive conversations. You can control who can mention you or reply to you within Threads. Like on Instagram, you can add hidden words to filter out replies to your threads that contain specific words.
You can unfollow, block, restrict or report a profile on Threads by tapping the three-dot menu, and any accounts you’ve blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads. There are buttons to like, repost, reply to or quote a “thread”, and counters showing the number of likes and replies that a post has received.
“Our vision is that Threads will be a new app more focused on text and dialogue, modelled after what Instagram has done for photo and video,” the company said.
However, there are some features missing as of now. For instance, users can not add GIFS and there’s no “close friend” feature. Most importantly, there are no DMs on Threads yet. Users also can’t post stories.
Which countries can access Threads?
The app went live just after midnight on Wednesday (July 5) in the UK in Apple and Google Android app stores in more than 100 countries, including the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, and Japan. Early celebrity users include renowned chef Gordon Ramsay, pop star Shakira, and Mark Hoyle, better known as the YouTuber LadBaby.
Data privacy concerns
Meta’s new offering has led to some data privacy concerns. Threads could collect a wide range of personal information, including health, financial, contacts, browsing and search history, location data, purchases, and “sensitive info”, according to its data privacy disclosure on the App Store.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey pointed it out in a snarky tweet saying, “All your Threads belong to us” that included a screenshot of the disclosure. Musk replied “yeah”. One place Threads won’t be rolled out is the European Union, which has strict data privacy rules.
Meta has informed Ireland’s Data Privacy Commission that it has no plans yet to launch Threads in the 27-nation bloc, commission spokesman Graham Doyle said. The Irish watchdog is Meta’s main privacy regulator for the EU because the company’s regional headquarters is based in Dublin.
While Meta had teased Threads with a listing on Apple’s UK App Store earlier this week, it could not be found in the French, German, or Dutch versions. The company is working on rolling the app out to more countries but cites regulatory uncertainty for its decision to hold off on a European launch.
Will Threads pose a potent challenge to Twitter?
The new app joins a growing list of Twitter rivals and could pose the biggest threat to Twitter till date, given Meta’s vast resources and massive audience.
Threads users get a Twitter-like microblogging experience, according to screenshots provided to media, suggesting that Meta Platforms has been gearing up to directly challenge the platform after Musk’s tumultuous ownership has resulted in a series of unpopular changes that have turned off users and advertisers.
In this situation, Threads could be a fresh headache for Musk, who acquired Twitter last year for $44 billion. He has rolled out a series of changes that have triggered backlash, the latest being daily limits on the number of tweets people can view to try to stop unauthorised scraping of potentially- valuable data. He also is now requiring paid verification for users to access the online dashboard TweetDeck.
Market analysts opined that Threads’ success is far from guaranteed, citing Meta’s track record of starting standalone apps that were later shut down. “Meta is banking on a moment in time amid peak Twitter frustration. However, this window of opportunity is already flooded with Twitter alternatives including Bluesky, Mastodon, Spill, Post.News, and Hive, which are all competing for Twitter’s market share,” said Mike Proulx, a research director at Forrester, a global market research company.
Responding to a question on whether Threads can become bigger than Twitter, Zuckerberg said, “It will take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”
Earlier, he introduced Threads as an “open and friendly public space for conversation”. He added that the idea is to “take the best parts of Instagram and create a new experience”.