In a showdown between tech giants Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, their respective companies, Meta and Tesla, have officially entered into battle. Meta has recently unveiled Threads, a standalone app that aims to rival Twitter, leveraging Instagram’s successful account system.
The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, attributes Twitter’s “volatility” and “unpredictability” under Musk’s leadership as the driving force behind Meta’s decision to compete head-on. Mosseri emphasizes that Threads is specifically designed for “public conversations,” a clear reference to Twitter’s long-established purpose.
The Opening for Competition: A Market Pioneer Challenged
Acknowledging Twitter’s pioneering role in the social media landscape, Mosseri acknowledges the existence of other platforms for public conversations. However, given the circumstances, Meta saw an opportunity to develop an open platform that catered to the existing Instagram community.
While Meta had been planning Threads for some time, the recent backlash against Musk’s decision to limit daily tweets served as a catalyst, propelling the app’s launch this week. Internal documents reveal Meta’s expectation that tens of millions of users will try Threads in its early months of availability.
Risky Endeavor: Challenging an Established Network
Mosseri recognizes the risks involved in introducing a new app that requires users to download a separate platform. To simplify the onboarding process, Meta allows users to conveniently import their account information and follow lists from Instagram.
This integration facilitates a seamless transition for Instagram users, expediting the adoption of Threads.
Facing Twitter’s Network Effects: A Formidable Task
Threads faces the formidable challenge of competing against Twitter, which has established a robust and unique network over its extensive tenure. Despite recent controversies surrounding Musk, Meta acknowledges the difficulty of displacing Twitter.
Mosseri cautions against underestimating both Twitter and Elon Musk, highlighting Twitter’s extensive history and vibrant community. The network effects cultivated by Twitter are undeniably potent.
Key Similarities with Twitter: Threads’ Features and Functionality
Threads bears striking resemblances to Twitter, featuring a main feed that showcases posts, or “threads,” from followed accounts and recommendations generated by Instagram’s algorithm. Users have the ability to repost content with their own commentary, and replies take center stage in the main feed.
While a dedicated feed exclusively for followed accounts is currently absent, Meta may consider adding this feature in the future.
Posts, Engagement, and Moderation: Threads’ Capabilities
Threads enables posts of up to 500 characters, accommodating photos or videos up to five minutes in length. Presently, the app does not display ads, but Meta remains open to their inclusion in the future if Threads achieves sufficient scale.
Paid verification, unlocking additional functionality, is not yet implemented; however, Instagram’s blue checks will be carried over to Threads accounts. Moderation actions taken by Meta against a Threads account will not impact the associated Instagram account, except in severe cases involving the sharing of child exploitation imagery.
Deep Integration with Instagram: Sharing and Linking
Threads benefits from its deep integration with Instagram, allowing users to effortlessly share posts from Threads to their Instagram stories or feed. Moreover, users can share links to Threads posts in other applications, a feature that Mosseri predicts will be valuable during the initial growth phase of Threads.
Celebrity Onboarding and Global Availability
In anticipation of the public release, Meta has actively onboarded a host of celebrities from various domains, including Hollywood, music, sports, and business. Prominent figures such as Karlie Kloss, Tony Robbins, Dana White, Gordon Ramsay, Ellie Goulding, Jack Black, Russell Wilson, and Brazilian pop star Anitta have already been spotted on the app.
Initially, Threads is available in 100 countries, including the United States, with the exception of the European Union (EU). The exclusion of the EU is due to complexities associated with complying with upcoming laws. It is likely a reference to the Digital Markets Act, which imposes new obligations on “gatekeeper” platforms like Meta.
Integration with ActivityPub: Decentralized Social Media
Meta plans to eventually integrate Threads with ActivityPub, the decentralized social media protocol that powers Mastodon.
However, this integration will not be available at the initial launch, but Meta intends to implement it in the future. Once enabled, Threads users will be able to interact with Mastodon users and transfer their accounts to other clients supporting the ActivityPub standard.
Appealing to Creators: Trust and Independence
The integration with ActivityPub serves as an attempt to address concerns voiced by creators who have grown increasingly skeptical of centralized social media platforms.
Mosseri believes that Threads can offer a more compelling platform for creators, especially those who are more savvy and cautious, by eliminating the need for indefinite trust in Meta.
Cultural Relevance as a Measure of Success
Mosseri outlines a different metric for success in the case of Threads. Rather than focusing solely on killing Twitter or amassing billions of users like Instagram, he prioritizes cultural relevance. Mosseri aims for Threads to make a significant impact and become culturally relevant, surpassing mere user numbers.