Threads, Meta’s recently launched social media platform, is attempting to carve out a niche in the market, promising a blend of the familiar and the innovative. Launched globally, with the exception of the European Union due to potential regulatory concerns, Threads is described by its parent company as a “separate space for real-time updates and public conversations”.
The service itself looks similar to Twitter but has a familiar feel to Instagram users. It supports text posts of up to 500 characters, as well as photos and videos of up to five minutes. Threads also support reposts — its version of a retweet — and quote posts. As reported by Engadget, ‘posts from Threads can be easily shared to users’ Instagram Story for added visibility.’
Meta claims to have plans to make Threads cabable of supporting ActivityPub, the open-source protocol that powers decentralized services like Mastodon. Meta explained in their announcement that Threads aims to ‘usher in a new era of diverse and interconnected networks’. The company hopes that ‘people using compatible apps will be able to follow and interact with people on Threads without having a Threads account, and vice versa’. This is a significant step forward for the decentralized web, as it will allow users to interact with each other across different platforms.
Threads gained a lot of it’s initial traction quickly by drawing from Instagram’s user base. However, recent data shows that user engagement with Threads has experienced a significant drop since its launch. According to Gizmodo, data from Sensor Tower and Similarweb indicate that ‘daily active users dropped 20% from Saturday while time spent on the platform fell 50% from 20 minutes to 10 minutes.’ Gizmodo also highlighted that Threads is currently unavailable in the EU due to regulatory concerns. Meta is actively blocking EU users from accessing Threads via VPN, further limiting its global reach.
Political scrutiny is another challenge that the new platform faces. According to CNBC, U.S. lawmakers, led by House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, have extended their social media investigation to include Meta’s Threads. Jordan has asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to hand over documents about content moderation on Threads as part of the panel’s ongoing investigation of tech platforms’ policies and contact with the Biden administration. This is an early indication of the added spotlight Meta’s newest product could bring to the company in Washington.
This evolution in social media is reflected in the opinion of Sriram Krishnan. He suggests that these recent events represent a “fundamental rejection of how the internet and large tech companies have worked for several decades”. Instead of a landscape dominated by a few large companies, we may be entering an era where consumers have more power and rights online. He believes this could be the beginning of a more decentralized internet where no centralized gatekeeper can delete a user’s account or data, and users can take their audience with them wherever they go. As he states, “Technological breakthroughs and unrest were needed to shake things up, and that has happened. A pessimist might say that this is going to lead to chaos and challenges. As an optimist who invests in technology entrepreneurs for a living, I believe we are in for an age of major innovation, with all of us having more options and say in how things are run online”.
While it’s clear that Threads is facing an uphill battle, Meta remains optimistic about the platform’s future. A Meta spokesperson told Gizmodo, ‘While it’s early days, we’re excited about the initial success of Threads, which has surpassed our expectations. We launched the app just over a week ago, and our focus now is on ensuring stable performance, delivering new features, and continuing to improve the experience in the coming months.’ Indeed, the platform has already garnered well over 100 million users.
As it stands, Threads is an interesting experiment in social media. It promises a new way for users to engage with each other, one that builds on the strengths of existing platforms while aiming to avoid their weaknesses. However, only time will tell if it can meet these ambitious goals and become a true contender in the social media landscape.