Meta’s latest venture into the social media landscape is Threads, a new app that aims to challenge Twitter’s dominance in real-time updates and public conversations. Launched on July 5, 2023, Threads has already attracted more than 10 million users, including some of the most-followed accounts on Instagram such as Shakira, Gordon Ramsay and Jennifer Lopez. But what makes Threads different from Twitter, and can it really revolutionize social networking online?
More space, more time
One of the main features of Threads is that it allows users to post up to 500 characters per thread, compared to Twitter’s 280-character limit for most users. This means that users can express themselves more fully and avoid the awkwardness of splitting their thoughts into multiple tweets. Threads also supports videos of up to five minutes in length, giving users more options to share their content.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on Threads that he believes there should be a public conversations app with more than one billion users, and that Twitter has failed to achieve that goal. “Hopefully we will,” he wrote.
No hashtags, no chronological timeline
Another difference between Threads and Twitter is the way users discover and consume content on the platform. Threads does not use hashtags, which are a key element of Twitter’s identity and a way for users to search for specific topics or join trending conversations. Instead, Threads relies on an algorithmic timeline that shows users posts from accounts they follow as well as accounts they don’t follow, based on their interests and preferences.
Meta described Threads as a “new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations”, aiming to “take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and engaging experience for people”. However, some users have criticized the lack of a chronological timeline option, which would allow them to see the most recent posts first. Tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee suggested that Meta should add a “home feed just for people you follow”, to which Zuckerberg responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
Threads is currently a mobile-only experience, meaning that users can only make posts, write comments and follow people on the platform’s mobile app. Unlike Twitter, which allows users to do all of these things on its website as well, Threads does not have a native desktop or web browser version. Users can only see people’s posts and profile pages on the web, but not interact with them.
Meta has not announced any plans to launch a desktop or web browser version of Threads, which could limit its accessibility and reach for some potential users. However, some analysts have argued that focusing on mobile could be a smart move for Meta, as more and more people access the internet through their smartphones rather than their computers.
One of the strategies that Meta has used to promote Threads is to enlist some of the most popular celebrities on Instagram to join the new app. Among the initial backers of Threads are Shakira, Gordon Ramsay and Jennifer Lopez, who have millions of followers on both Instagram and Twitter. Meta has also reportedly approached other influential figures such as Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama to join Threads.
By leveraging the star power of these celebrities, Meta hopes to attract their fans and followers to Threads as well. However, not all of Instagram’s most-followed accounts have signed up for Threads yet. Among the top 20 most-followed accounts on Instagram (excluding brands), only the Kardashian sisters—Kim, Khloe and Kourtney—have joined Threads so far. None of the top 10 most followed accounts on Twitter have signed up for Threads yet either.
Threads is an ambitious attempt by Meta to enter the crowded social media market and compete with Twitter for real-time updates and public conversations. It offers some features that could appeal to users who want more space, more time and more variety in their posts. It also has some drawbacks that could alienate users who prefer hashtags, chronological timeline and desktop access. And it faces the challenge of convincing celebrities and influencers to switch or split their attention between two platforms.
Whether Threads will succeed or fail remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: Meta is not giving up on its quest to dominate the online world.