Around 7PM EST on Wednesday, July 5, Meta officially launched their Threads platform, similar to and very much in competition with Twitter. It only took around seven hours for the new, Instagram-linked (and Instagram-dependent) platform to gain more than ten million users, and that number tripled in only a few more hours—causing many to speculate whether this will be the final nail in the Twitter coffin.
Early buzz on the app last night had users praising its good vibes. It has not yet been in existence as a platform long enough to become toxic, a fact much celebrated on the platform in its first day. Based on user feedback, this is the most welcome change of all. Actress Megan Mulally voiced it well for all of us, when she posted, “okay, i like this one. good vibes…could it be possible? to just have a nice space that isn’t fraught with sheer evil? Ii’m (sic) nervous. everybody just be real cool.”
Battle of the billionaires: Threads vs. Twitter
In a move that surprised nobody (except possibly Musk himself), Mark Zuckerberg came for the beleaguered Twitter platform, which has plummeted in users and credibility with Musk at the helm. While a few select users, including Zuckerberg, received early access to the Threads app, Meta officially launched the social media platform last night in direct competition with Twitter. Musk’s bravado, which may turn out to be his Achilles heel, had him ridiculously challenging Zuckerberg to a “cage match” regarding the latter’s new app.
Twitter won’t die overnight, but anyone left in the Twitter camp has every reason to worry. Twitter still stands as a platform embraced by many, with particular appeal to various communities, be it socially constructed ones such as Black Twitter or interest and job oriented like Book Twitter. Of course, the migration away from Twitter had already begun once Musk stepped in. With every erratic change, employee purge, and crass money grab, Twitter has lost credibility and users.
Zuck’s brilliant move
First, Meta launched Threads inside of Instagram, with IG’s users getting notified when accounts they follow on Instagram. It’s a genius move by Meta, leveraging the power of their 1.6 billion-plus Instagram users by inextricably linking the two platforms, facilitating rapid and easy growth for Threads.
While this clever strategy will continue to lead to the rapid growth of Threads, users beware: in order to delete your Threads account, you will have to delete your Instagram account! However, you can deactivate your Threads account without losing your IG. Phew.
Zuck don’t play when it comes to linking the Metaverse, after all, and it benefits the company and both platforms to link them. Zuckerberg surely must be feeling pleased with himself today. In his own Thread early Thursday morning, Zuck flexed, “Wow, 30 million sign ups as of this morning. Feels like the beginning of something special, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead to build out the app.”
Fair flex, sure, but this should also serve as a reminder that Threads will change as things progress. If Facebook has taught us anything (and it should have by now, honestly), it’s that they WILL always introduce new features and take others away.
They aren’t the first app to come for Twitter. Germany’s Mastodon was the platform that garnered the most new users from the first post-Musk Twitter exodus way back in late 2022. On the social media scene since 2016, Mastodon benefitted from the initial wave of users leaving Twitter, growing from a couple of million users to more than ten million between November 2022 and March 2023. Of course, the app did not have Instagram numbers in its pocket to foist onto their app, unlike Threads.
What we know so far
Here’s an early look at what is the same as and different from Twitter off the bat, what people seem to like about Threads, and what this means for businesses and content creators, from individual users to small businesses to the big dogs. At first glance, it is a breath of fresh air, a clean slate compared to the increasingly sullied and manipulative social media platforms we have been dealing with.
Would it be lovely if it stayed that way? *wistful sigh*
- Text based app: the feed looks similar to Twitter in that there is a strong preference for text-based posts. The app seems ripe for interactions among users, and thus far, there is an innocence to the fresh-faced newcomer. Austin based food blogger, Food Banjo, noted, “People aren’t as concerned with curation as they are with connecting.”
- Character limits: Twitter currently allows up to 280 characters per tweet, though Musk has promised to expand that to 4,000 characters in the near future. Threads launched with a 500-character limit.
- Photos, videos, and GIFs allowed: While the new app still seems to encourage text-based posts, they are allowing photos and videos of up to five minutes. Users can also post using a GIF, although they have to download the GIF from an external source and upload it to Threads vs. posting it native in the platform as with Twitter and Facebook.
- @ me, bro: As with Instagram and Twitter, user names are preceded with the @ symbol, which is the actual icon for Threads. And the Threads accounts aren’t only linked to Instagram accounts, but they also have the same account names. You can @jojoaustin me on IG or Threads. Neat.
- Interactions: Likes comments are here, as in IG and Twitter. Shares are possible, just like with Instagram, and reposts are possible as on Twitter.
- Celebrities and brands: Of course brands and celebs are already on the platform. JLo, Shakira, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah are on the platform. Brands are hopping on board as well, naturally. Popular Texas-founded burger chain Whataburger took to Threads to confirm what Texans have long known: it’s pronounced “water burger.”
Differences in the platforms
- No #s: As of day one, hashtags aren’t a thing yet. While hashtags are an amazing way to build community and look up specific information as an online filing system of sorts, there is a peacefulness to not having them on Threads (yet).
- No ads: Hip hip hooray! Threads does not have ads yet, but you bet your booty they will be here soon enough. Meta has built the platform, and the users are turning up in droves. It will be a mere matter of time until the monetization begins.
- Free Verified blue checks: Accounts with existing blue checks on Instagram rolled over to the new platform with blue checks intact. Hopefully it will stay that way to reduce impostor accounts.
- Search features: You can search for other accounts but not keywords yet.
- Good vibes: Can we all just get along for once? It’s such a fun ride at the moment.
- No sliding into your DMs: As of Thursday, Threads does not have a direct messaging feature. Somehow this is soooo freeing. No soliciting, no pervy messages, no catfishing behind the scenes. The first day of Threads is delightful!
- Uncurated feed: So far, users see posts from people they follow and popular or blue-check accounts. No doubt the algorithm will kick in soon to provide a more curated (and likely manipulated) feed.
A hot topic on early Threads posts included what to call the posts? If Twitter has tweets, if you post on Threads, is that a thread? A threat? A needle? Is a long thread a scarf or tapestry? You can count on social media users to ask the important questions. Another popular theme last night and well into this morning was “Is anyone getting any sleep tonight?”
Users are sending good luck and Godspeed to social media managers everywhere, as they are likely to be missing sleep or at least experiencing whiplash at the speed at which Threads has taken off.
Memes and GIFs proliferated in the early hours about how the other apps (most notably Twitter) are reacting and how this signals the end for Musk’s project platform. It’s early days, so much is to be seen.
While Musk first mocked the platform claiming something to the effect that it’s better to be insulted on Twitter than fall for false joy on Instagram (and therefore Threads). Huh? He soon realized the reality of the threat that Threads poses to the app he has struggled to keep stable.
By early afternoon on July 6, Twitter has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Meta because of the platform’s similarities and the fact that Meta hired former Twitter employees—many fired during Musk’s recent reign—to create a similar platform.
It will be fun to see what happens next. On behalf of all of the users on the platform that I have seen so far, I plead with Zuck and Meta, please let us have this one nice thing for a hot minute. Keep the bots and trolls and trollbots at bay for a minute, don’t allow hate speech, and push happy news and good vibes up in the algorithm. We all need a break.