Threads: A Game-Changer in Real-Time Social Media Conversation?

It is not often that a new app garners 30 million downloads in less than a day. However, Meta’s latest creation, Threads, did just that and made waves in the social-media landscape.

Although Meta owns both Instagram and Facebook, its most recent addition to its platform suite has taken the digital world by storm, with its speed and magnitude of adoption suggesting that Threads has managed to strike a chord with a new generation of digital citizens.

What is Threads?

Threads is a platform for real-time public conversation. Unlike Twitter, which has been critiqued a lot lately, Threads was built with a “friendly” environment in mind, fostering an atmosphere of open conversation without the toxicity that has become synonymous with social media platforms today. Whether that vision comes to fruition is a different story – it’s far too early to tell. I’ll just say it outright: it’s the honeymoon phase.

My experience with Threads has been quite impressive. Being part of the platform initially felt akin to being a new student on campus, where everyone is keen on getting to know each other. There’s a palpable excitement and a sense of discovery that I found incredibly engaging. However, despite the overall positive user experience, there are areas where Threads could improve. One of these is the lack of a topic-specific search function. The inability to find specific threads or topics is a glaring deficiency in an app aimed at public conversation. Being able to track conversations around certain topics is a vital aspect of social media platforms, and I believe Meta should prioritize this feature in its future updates.

Adam Mosseri, the chief executive officer of Instagram, told the The New York Times that he had an aspiration to weave real-time dialogues into IG. However, he acknowledged the complexity of Instagram, which already houses a multitude of features and dynamics. He said he spotted a potential opening to leverage the unrest at Twitter following its acquisition by Elon Musk in late 2022. His vision was reportedly to offer devotees of Twitter a similar platform but one that was operated with a greater degree of stability and sound management.

Explosive popularity

The explosive popularity of Threads in just a few hours is a testament to people’s demand for alternative digital spaces for discourse. It’s no secret that Twitter, a thriving digital town square, has been under fire, not least due to Elon Musk’s changes that have irked many of its longtime users. The success of Threads in such a short span of time might just indicate that there’s a gap in the market – and it’s one that Meta is keen to fill. Yet it should also be noted that Twitter is not dead, nor do I think that it will die any time soon. Rather, I think competition is healthy and it’ll be interesting to see what Twitter does to step up its game and retain users.

The legal battle that’s brewing between Twitter and Meta over Threads only underscores the threat Twitter feels from this newcomer. Despite the legal threats and veiled Twitter jabs, Meta has stayed its course, defending its actions and maintaining the separation between its development teams.

While Threads’ early success is indeed remarkable, it will be interesting to see if this momentum translates to long-term engagement and success. Skeptics might argue that this is merely the usual clamor around a new product launch. It’s not unusual for celebrities and well-known personalities to flock to a new platform, stoking initial enthusiasm. Whether that enthusiasm can be sustained and translated into robust user engagement will be the real test for Threads.

Meanwhile, Threads is also posing a challenge to Meta, a company that has had its fair share of criticism over the handling of misinformation and other toxic content.

The Threads app icon.

Opportunity for Meta to strengthen its position

Meta’s introduction of Threads can provide the company with several opportunities to strengthen its position in the competitive social media landscape:

  1. Diversification: Threads allows Meta to diversify its product lineup, adding a text-focused platform to its suite of photo and video-centric platforms like Instagram and Facebook. This could help attract users who prefer text-based communication.
  2. Increased User Engagement: With Threads being a real-time conversation platform, it encourages users to spend more time on the app, increasing user engagement. This, in turn, could lead to more opportunities for advertising and partnerships.
  3. Youth Market Penetration: By defaulting users under 16 (or 18 in certain countries) to a private profile, Threads may appeal to younger users and their parents, who might be more comfortable with this additional layer of privacy.
  4. Interoperability: By making Threads compatible with ActivityPub, an open social networking protocol, Meta can connect with a larger audience across multiple platforms. This increases the potential reach of Threads and aligns with the trend towards a more open and interoperable internet.
  5. Position Against Competitors: Threads could be seen as a more stable and well-managed alternative. By addressing certain deficiencies like the inability to search for specific topics, Threads could position itself as a superior option.

The company needs to carefully manage the balance between fostering open conversation and ensuring that the platform does not become another hotspot for the spread of misleading information or online abuse. This challenge is already starting to surface, with some users finding certain features concerning, such as the possibility of needing to delete their connected Instagram accounts if they wish to erase their Threads presence.

It’s clear that Meta’s Threads has sparked a fire in the digital world, but the real proof will lie in its ability to keep that fire burning. Will Threads evolve to become a significant player in the social media sphere? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, it’s important to note that the rise of Threads is not merely a competition between Twitter and Meta, but a reflection of changing user preferences and demands for healthier digital environments.