Instagram parent company Meta is set to release Threads, a potential rival to Twitter. (Pic by AFP)

Unthreading Twitter: Meta’s new social media app ignites a digital showdown

  • Threads facilitates text updates and public chats, with posts up to 500 characters long.
  • Quitting Threads requires deleting your Instagram, a potentially unwelcome stipulation for many.

A clash of titans is brewing as Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta unveils Threads, a social media app rivalling Elon Musk’s Twitter. Their intensified rivalry is underscored by Threads, “mimicking” Twitter’s hallmark features like public conversations and text updates.

Threads, like Twitter, allows users to share short text posts that others can react to, reshare, and comment on, with the exclusion of a direct messaging function. The application enables posts containing up to 500 characters and includes links, images, and videos of up to five minutes in length.

Threads has already seen significant traction, as revealed by Zuckerberg, with two million sign-ups in the first couple of hours after launch. Instagram has brought billions of individuals across the globe together through visual content, and Meta hopes Threads will achieve similar success by focusing on text and conversation, using Instagram as its inspiration.

Threads, the new social media app sparking interest worldwide.

Mark Zuckerberg introduces Meta’s Threads. (Source – Threads)

What can the social media app do?

Threads allows users to interact with friends and creators aligned with their interests, much like Instagram. Connection is enabled across platforms – including Instagram and beyond, utilizing the platform’s existing safety features and user controls. Logging into Threads is facilitated through your Instagram account, with posts following similar restrictions to those on Instagram. Thus, Threads provides a fresh, distinct platform for real-time updates and public discussions, whether you’re a content creator or an occasional poster.

Ease of access is a key feature of Threads. Meta has smartly linked Instagram accounts as the gateway to access Threads. This means that getting on Threads requires nothing more than a simple click of a button for those already utilizing Instagram.

Once on board, Threads offers a choice: carry over existing profile details like your bio and profile picture from Instagram or embark on a fresh start with a new profile on Threads. Additionally, Threads doesn’t impose a following list on you. Users can either opt for automatic following of their Instagram friends or manually select who to follow on Threads.

While the default account settings on Threads lean towards public access, users need not fret about privacy. If a private account is more your style, Threads provides the flexibility to make it so.

Threads operates similarly to most social media platforms with a home page for the timeline, a search tab, options to create new posts and manage notifications, and a user profile. Additional features include customized notifications, word filtering, user blocking, and profile sharing.

In the near future, Meta aims to integrate Threads with the ActivityPub protocol. This adaptation would facilitate interaction between Threads and open-source social platforms such as Mastodon; a move Meta believes could influence the internet’s future trajectory. Meta is also devoted to expanding Threads’ capabilities with new additions such as enhanced in-feed suggestions and search updates.

Interestingly, Meta has decided not to incorporate ads into Threads for the foreseeable future, reminiscent of Twitter’s path. Last October, Elon Musk acquired Twitter for a staggering US$44 billion. Yet, its value plummeted drastically following significant advertiser withdrawals amidst severe staff reductions and content moderation controversies. Given Twitter’s history, this no-ad decision by Meta could be seen as a preventative measure.

As it stands, the main feed on Threads is a fusion of followed and algorithm-suggested content. Presently, there are no plans to offer users an option to limit the feed solely to the people they follow. Usernames from Instagram are preserved on Threads, minimizing the chances of high-profile username squatting.

Watch the video below for some in-depth review of Meta’s Threads:

Is Threads perfect? The answer is no

Despite the positive features, no innovation is flawless. Threads has its drawbacks, such as the non-functional hashtags, a vital feature for long-time Twitter users. On Twitter, hashtags are instrumental in classifying posts and even reveal trending keywords on the screen’s side. Using hashtags in your posts on Twitter increases the likelihood of attracting users interested in or discussing that particular subject.

Clicking a hashtag on Twitter redirects users to a compilation of tweets sharing the same hashtag, thereby assisting users in discovering relevant content. Twitter highlights and promotes “Trending Topics,” denoting subjects gaining popularity at the moment, which are often distinguished by common hashtags and vary by region. These trending hashtags are conveniently accessible on the Twitter homepage’s sidebar.

Hashtags on Twitter enable users to join broader discussions. Users can contribute their perspective on an ongoing conversation by tweeting with a specific hashtag. These hashtags also function as searchable keywords on Twitter, aiding users in finding tweets on particular topics.

Currently, a keyword search on Threads yields only users holding accounts on the platform. However, given Threads’ nascent stage, more Twitter-like integrations are likely in the pipeline.

One aspect that may strike you as peculiar, rather than a limitation, is that Threads displays posts from a random assortment of individuals, like celebrities and creators if you don’t follow anyone. Additionally, Threads lacks the option to arrange your timeline in chronological order.

Another potential concern for users is the absence of a dedicated Threads app for iPad. Given Instagram’s lack of a standalone iPad app, the odds of seeing Threads on iPad appear low. Threads is also set to be compatible with the fediverse eventually, but this is yet to be implemented.

Amid the buzz around Meta’s Threads, it has introduced an interesting condition that firmly ties the app to Instagram. If you choose to discontinue Threads, the catch is that your Instagram account must be deleted as well – an unexpected and perhaps unwelcome link for many users.

A Twitter user, @ecto_fun, commented on the policy of the new social media app.

A Twitter user, @ecto_fun, commented on how people would dislike the app once installed. (Source – Twitter)

This might appear to be a clever maneuver by Zuckerberg to expand Threads’ user base. The inevitable tie between Threads and Instagram could urge users to reassess their engagement with Meta’s platforms. A commitment to principle could lead to the removal of Threads and Instagram, and potentially other services within Meta’s domain.

It’s important to note the process of account deletion isn’t instant. It takes 30 days from the time you request the account to be fully deleted. However, if you log back into Threads within this timeframe, the deletion request is cancelled, and your account reactivates, pulling you back into the Threads ecosystem.

All of these concerns emphasize the importance of reading and understanding the terms and conditions of any service before engaging. However, with many users often skipping over lengthy policy documents, sometimes the real cost of service comes in the form of unexpected constraints and conditions.

Meta’s track record and concerns with Threads

Following Threads’ launch, not all regions will have immediate access. Bloomberg reported that certain areas, including the European Union, will initially be excluded as Meta navigates the data-sharing regulations between Threads and its Instagram app.

Meta is awaiting further guidance concerning the Digital Markets Act, new EU competition regulations dictating the operational dynamics of large online platforms. According to an anonymous source familiar with Meta’s mindset, the European Commission is currently in discussions with companies and is anticipated to provide additional guidance in September.

A Meta spokesperson stated that while the company plans to launch Threads in over 100 countries, with more in the pipeline, it refrains from revealing the entire list. The commission’s representative did not comment on Meta’s private business decisions. Threads was not listed recently in app stores across European Union nations, including Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, and Belgium.

Meta's new social media app ignites a digital showdown

Meta introduces Threads that’s said to “kill” Twitter. (Source – Shutterstock)

Meta’s privacy practices have been scrutinized, recently leading to FTC allegations of deceiving parents and inadequately protecting children’s privacy via its Messenger Kids app. Now, critics fear that Threads may collect substantial user information. According to its App Privacy description on the Apple AppStore, Threads has the potential to accumulate an extensive amount of personal data from users, including:

  • Health and fitness information
  • Financial data
  • Contact lists
  • Browsing history
  • Purchases made
  • User location
  • Sensitive information

These concerns and Threads’ regional restrictions and feature limitations highlight the challenges Meta faces with its latest venture. Nonetheless, the app’s initial adoption rates hint at a positive preliminary response. It will be interesting to observe how Threads develops and contends in the ever-evolving landscape of social media.