What Is 'Threads' and Will It Take Down Twitter?

A lot of changes and controversies have come to Twitter in the wake of its purchase by Tesla and Space-X founder, Elon Musk.

There have been two sides to Twitter’s story. The first is the exposure of government-endorsed and even government-led censorship of users (particularly conservative voices) as laid out in the Twitter Files. The second side has been the technical side, where long-since free features have been put behind a paywall and new features appear to be breaking things.

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But the microblogging feature of Twitter has long been the envy of other social media companies, who have since incorporated various forms of “status updates” to their basic infrastructure to allow users to share their thoughts. Twitter originated this, and others have utilized it.

Meta, one of the chief rivals to Twitter in the social media world, has two primary apps that have an insane number of users – Facebook and Instagram. Facebook already has a microblogging feature in its status updates, but Instagram has long been just a photo-only place. On Wednesday, Meta launched its latest app, Threads, which is tied to Instagram but looks and feels very much like a Twitter derivative.

The app-only social media network allows those with an Instagram account to create a profile and begin sharing status updates. Like Twitter, the focus is on short, text-based posts.

The pros? It’s a new social media network that incorporates what you’ve already built – including a friend network. You can start off by following people you follow on Instagram, which is giving plenty of people a built-in audience based on their existing friendships and likes. It also means the network starts out with a huge advantage over apps like “Bluesky,” Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s latest project (Bluesky has already had to shut down new registrations).

Previous attempts to combat Twitter – Parler, Mastodon, Truth Social, Bluesky, etc. – don’t have that, and they quickly became the same echo chambers you could find on Twitter. Just, you know, more intense and segregated. But most people who use Instagram and Facebook use them for connections with family and friends, which makes the audience on the app different.

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For now, at least.

The cons? There is currently no chronological timeline, and there’s no option to just see threads posted by the people you follow. You can change the setting to where posts by people you follow come first, but inevitably you’ll begin coming across so-called influencers and other people you don’t follow. This can be especially frustrating when the algorithm hasn’t quite figured you out and you’re seeing stuff unrelated to your interests.

But it doesn’t take long for the algorithm to learn you, which is okay but also kind of freaky. The content you post there will also impact it, which is why I question whether or not it’s a true rival to Twitter or something that will coexist alongside it.

The other con is that it’s app-only. Older users, those with older eyes, and those who work in front of a computer a lot don’t get the chance to switch back and forth between tabs to check their Threads feed. That might be a turn-off for some, but Instagram is also app-only and its userbase has grown just fine.

Of the people I follow, which include several folks who are writers and politically-minded thinkers, I don’t see a whole lot of politics there. Other than the people who previously made Instagram accounts to be political there (and try to ruin the experience for everyone).

A Thread post with serious Twitter vibes.
Credit: @peopleforbernie/Threads

Which is why I think there’s a chance that the two apps get used for different purposes. Twitter, while it’s still functional (something a lot of people are thinking is a small window), has a market for people to share their ideas and their political ideologies. But for the moment, an Instagram-tied microblogging app has more immediate friends and family involved, and the expectations of behavior on Instagram are different. That has the potential to affect how people treat the app.

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Of course, it may also not be very long before Threads devolves into everything that makes Twitter a hellsite. In fact, the cynic in me assumes it won’t be but a week or two. Still, it’s a refreshing new timeline to look at where I don’t have to see all the negativity from politics.

Yet.

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