As soon as Elon Musk acquired control of Twitter last year, the hierarchy of text-based social media platforms began to appear unstable. As he continues to implement jarring and unpopular changes on the platform, the instability has only increased.
This has led to a plethora of rivals fighting for Twitter’s cherished crown, the most recent of which is Threads, which was revealed late Wednesday by Meta, the parent company of Facebook. With 30 million users in less than 24 hours, Threads already seems to have an advantage over other Twitter rivals.
But might it go all the way and put Twitter out of business? It might not be that easy.Priorities first What similarities do Threads and Twitter share?
Threads is being marketed by Meta as a brand-new platform for real-time, open dialogue. Additionally, despite being closely related to Instagram (users must have an Instagram account to sign up), the user experience is very similar to Twitter.
To like, repost, reply to, or quote a thread, use the buttons on the page. Each post has a counter that shows how many people have liked and commented on it. Accounts can be either private or public.
The software chooses simplicity above glitzy new features in terms of utility.
However, rather than in spite of it, it’s possible that people are flocking to Threads as a result of that fact. Okay, but what sets this apart from Twitter clones Mastodon, Hive Social, Blue Sky, etc.?
Threads has an advantage over its rivals for two reasons: Scale and data.
With Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp among its collection of apps, Meta already has more than 3 billion users, and it is making it simple for current users to open new accounts.
Existing Instagram users who download the new app have the ability to import basic setup elements like their bio, username, profile photo, and follow list. More than 30 million individuals had downloaded the app as of midday on Thursday, which is more than 30 times the number of users who Mastodon and Post claim to have active users.
Celebrities including chef Gordon Ramsay, actor Zac Efron, and pop singer Shakira are among the users. Threads was being used by news organizations including CBS, Vox, and Vogue as well as companies like Airbnb, Netflix, Marvel Studios, and Spotify. Over a million tweets about “Threads” were sent out as a result of the excitement on its rival platform. Tech enthusiasts are calling the newcomer the “Twitter killer.”
How many users does that have compared to Twitter? Twitter doesn’t regularly provide information about its user base, especially since it was discovered in 2017 that it had been inflating the number of monthly active users for years. Around that time, the company counted 326 million active monthly users.
One thing to keep in mind is that Mark Zuckerberg, the owner of Meta, could have easily launched Threads at that time or even earlier. In 2008, he attempted to acquire Twitter on his own, but the company refused to sell. Since Musk paid $44 billion to purchase Twitter, he has struggled to turn the service into a lucrative business, cutting staff and enacting unpredictable policy changes that have alienated some of Twitter’s most devoted users.
A temporary limit on the number of tweets that non-paying users could access each day was just announced by Musk over the weekend. Additionally, Twitter made it difficult to access tweets without being logged in, a decision that was swiftly overturned.
Even after months of unrest, each new policy change prompts a flood of tweets from users who are considering abandoning the network. At the same time, Twitter’s advertising spending has plummeted, falling by almost 60% from a year ago.
NPR has reached out to Musk for comment on the debut of Threads, although he has previously called its sibling app, Instagram, “weak sauce.”
In a tweet posted on Thursday, he said, “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram.”
What would it take for a new application to successfully compete with Twitter? Modern market issues that an early Twitter did not have to consider are being faced by Threads.
Growing privacy concerns prevented the app from being released in the European Union and are already making news in the United States.
It’s also uncertain how financially stable the app will be. As the tech sector as a whole slows down and Zuckerberg in particular continues to invest billions in his virtual reality project, the Metaverse, Meta has laid off tens of thousands of employees.
Zuckerberg stated that Threads would start to monetize once it is operating properly and “on a clear path to 1 billion people.” At the moment, Threads does not display adverts. Then there is the fragmented market share and the confusion of competing apps that are attempting to replace Twitter. According to Threads, it wants the app to function in the so-called “fediverse,” a federated universe of apps with comparable communication protocols. Those who are reluctant to start over on a new platform, such as creators or someone with a sizable following, would find this to be particularly alluring. However, in the end, Threads may be successful or unsuccessful depending on how much its users integrate it into the society they desire.
Can Twitter’s function as the public square be replicated by Threads?
In a few of his early posts on the site, Zuckerberg stated that he was committed to making Threads “a friendly place,” and that this would “ultimately be the key to its success.”
We want to approach it differently, he wrote, and that is one reason why Twitter hasn’t achieved the level of success I believe it should have.
Tech enthusiasts would argue that Zuckerberg has already played (and lost) this game. With Facebook Stories and Instagram Reels, he attempted to mimic the fleeting nature of Snapchat and the compulsive scrolling of TikTok. Neither feature was able to outperform the opposition.
One of the app’s main flaws—the strength of the Meta brand—might also be what makes the launch successful in terms of attracting users to post regularly on Threads.
It’s what Argument Consulting tech analyst Faine Greenwood refers to as the “terrible uncle problem.”
On NPR’s Morning Edition, Greenwood said, “The terrible uncle problem is the issue that arises when all of your relatives, your coworkers, and your high school classmates can find you on social media.” “Younger people, especially, are turned off by a platform where they feel like they have to censor what they’re saying.”
“They don’t want to have to deal with literally everybody they know” being in their social places, she continued.