Threads is a text-based social media app created by Instagram to compete with X (formerly Twitter).
The new social app was announced on July 5, 2023, and quickly surpassed 150 million downloads, becoming the most successful launch of a social media platform in history.
Find out what Threads is, how it came to be, and whether it is the next big thing.
What Is Threads?
Threads is a social sharing platform that allows discussion and the sharing of ideas through text messages and operates similarly to X (formerly Twitter).
Threads aims to offer a friendly environment for users to interact with one another.
Finding friends and other individuals to follow is a process much like any other social media app, except that potential members of Threads need an Instagram account in order to sign up for Threads.
Threads was created by a team at Instagram for the purpose of replicating the positive sharing experiences on Instagram and translating that over to a new, text-based platform.
What Instagram and Threads share is a focus on creators (people who create content) and connecting people in a positive manner.
The Instagram announcement of Threads explained:
“Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas.
Hopefully we will.”
“Just like on Instagram, with Threads, you can follow and connect with friends and creators who share your interests – including the people you follow on Instagram and beyond.
And you can use our existing suite of safety and user controls.”
How Is Threads Different From Instagram?
The difference between Instagram and Threads is that Threads enables members to exchange ideas and share events through discussions. Instagram is about sharing experiences through images and videos.
Threads is a text-based social sharing app where members can share comments about themselves, discuss current events and news, and engage in dialogue.
Instagram enables users to follow others and share images and videos but is not as well optimized for engaging in real-time discussions.
The Threads app was developed by the Instagram team because, initially, it was going to be a part of Instagram.
That changed toward the end of 2022 when it became apparent that, with the decline of Twitter (now X), the time was ideal for launching a competitor.
Meta hasn’t explained the reason why there is a close link between Instagram and Threads other than it was developed by an Instagram team.
Strategic Reasons For Ties Between Instagram and Threads?
There may be strategic advantages in Meta’s decision to link Instagram membership as a prerequisite for joining Threads.
For example, although there is some political activism on Instagram, unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is not known for being a highly political social space.
Nor does Instagram share Facebook’s controversial legacy of encouraging engagement regardless of whether the engagement derives from a positive or negative experience.
Other differences set apart Instagram’s membership from Facebook, possibly making it more desirable as an advertising demographic.
The divide between older and younger Facebook users is nearly evenly split, with older members comprising the majority of members. 54% of Facebook users are over the age of 35.
The vast majority of Instagram users are relatively younger – in the US, 75% of 18-24-year-olds use Instagram.
Given CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram head Adam Mosseri’s comments that the goal for Threads is to build a public space that is friendly and based on topics like sports, music, fashion, etc., these facts may point to why launching Threads as an Instagram-linked platform makes more sense than leveraging Facebook’s older and more politically-active user base.
Why Did Meta Launch An X (Formerly Twitter) Competitor?
Mark Zuckerberg has long been interested in acquiring X (Twitter).
In 2008 it was reported that Facebook offered to buy X (Twitter) for $100 million dollars in cash, plus $400 million dollars in Facebook stock – an offer that was turned down.
But what truly motivated Mark Zuckerberg to launch an X (Twitter) clone was Elon Musk’s purchase of X (Twitter) and the subsequent slow-motion collapse of the platform.
In late 2022, X (Twitter) was clearly spiraling downwards, shedding advertisers and users, with no visible end to its decline.
That’s when Mark Zuckerberg called Instagram head Adam Mosseri to discuss an expansion of Instagram.
Zuckerberg eventually changed course and encouraged Mosseri to turn the project into a standalone app to compete against Twitter.
Mosseri assembled a team of 60 engineers who cranked out a functional app in just 7 months.
Their conversation was amidst the backdrop of X (Twitter) suffering what Elon Musk called a “massive drop in revenue” and X’s (Twitter’s) workforce reduced to less than a skeleton crew with no engineers to maintain various critical systems.
Under any other circumstance, launching a challenge to X (Twitter) would have been considered quixotic and a waste of time.
But the multitude of catastrophes hobbling X (Twitter) made the timing right for creating a viable alternative.
How Is Threads Different From X (Twitter)?
There are many references to Threads being an X (Twitter) clone. Superficially, Threads does have the general look and feel of X (Twitter).
Look a little closer, and it becomes apparent that Threads’ focus and demographics may differ from X.
The stated goal for Threads is to be a friendly place for discussions. That’s a purposeful contrast to X (Twitter), which is more of an anything-goes free-for-all.
Threads differentiates itself from X (Twitter) because it is a competitor, not a clone.
Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t hide the fact that Threads is a competitor to X (Twitter).
He posted on how Threads intends to avoid X’s (Twitter’s) mistakes and do better:
“It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it.
Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it.”
Another way that Threads is not a clone of X (Twitter) is its approach to politics.
The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, commented that engagement from politics is not a major focus for Threads.
Mosseri explained his thinking on the topic:
“Politics and hard news are important, I don’t want to imply otherwise.
But my take is, from a platform’s perspective, any incremental engagement or revenue they might drive is not at all worth the scrutiny, negativity (let’s be honest), or integrity risks that come along with them.
There are more than enough amazing communities – sports, music, fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc – to make a vibrant platform without needing to get into politics or hard news.”
Another way Thread differs from X (Twitter) is that the growth strategy focuses on the user experience.
That’s unsurprising, given that the user experience on X (Twitter) has cratered. Focusing on a positive user experience is the strategy of turning a competitor’s weakness into a strength.
But that could be a somewhat risky strategy.
The history of many web forums, the ancestor of today’s social networks, shows that many, if not virtually all, started as free-for-alls.
Many admins feared alienating members by restricting their freedom of speech, particularly when the community was starting out.
But once that ball gets rolling, there’s no turning back on virtually unrestricted speech.
This is why so many forums (and social networks) can be tough places to discuss topics. It’s difficult to transform a community from a rough one to a friendly space without sparking a negative response.
What Are The Best Features On Threads?
Threads was initially rolled out in a somewhat work-in-progress state of incompletion. Many features that social media users are used to were missing when the app debuted.
However, Instagram is steadily working at adding more features that should have been there at launch.
- Directly share posts via Instagram direct messaging: Threads users can share a post via Instagram direct messaging by tapping the share icon on the Threads app.
- Custom alt-text for photo/video: Alt-text makes photos and videos user-friendly for people on assistive devices and makes the media more SEO-friendly.
- New mention button to easily mention someone’s account in your Thread: This is a way to tag someone else on Threads and pull them into your conversation on Threads.
- View liked Threads: Review all the threads that you have liked.
- Sort the accounts you follow: Accessible from your profile, tap on your followers, click following, then tap “Sort.”
- Support for rel=me: Rel=me links are a functionality for verifying your identity on other platforms that support it, like Mastodon.
- Media quality settings: These settings control the media quality. The default setting is off.
Accessible at: Account > Settings > Media Quality.
Translations: Threads has the ability to translate posts. This feature is powered by the same AI used in Instagram. This was announced at the end of July as a feature that’s coming. The translation icon will reside at the bottom of a post along with the other icons, for like, post, repost/quote and share icons.
Following Tab: A Following tab on the activity feed that enables viewing of posts of followed members in chronological order.
Follow anyone: Threads users can subscribe to unfollowed users.
Does Threads Have An Edit Button?
The ability to edit a post is an important functionality. It is one of the features that the Instagram team has been working on.
Adam Mosseri commented on the edit button early in July, saying that they are prioritizing it.
“With so many people joining @threads so fast these last six days (six days!) the team has been entirely focused on keeping the lights on and fixing bugs, but we’re starting to priorite the obvious missing features, like a following feed, the edit button, and post search.
…the team is pumped to start shipping improvements this week.”
How To Sign Up For Threads?
The Threads app can be downloaded to an Android or Apple device through their respective app stores.
It can be accessed online as well, at the Threads.net domain in order to join.
The home page displays a QR code that, when scanned with a mobile device, redirects to the relevant app store where the Threads app can be downloaded.
An Instagram account is necessary to sign up for Threads.
Threads QR Code
How To Get Verified On Threads
Verification confirms that the person associated with an account is genuinely that person.
Verified Status Is Signaled With A Badge:
Obtaining a verification on Threads requires Instagram verification or a subscription to Meta Verified.
An Instagram Account Must Satisfy These Four Requirements To Be Verified:
- Complete (must be public, with a bio, a profile photo, and be active).
How To Get Meta Verified:
The second method for obtaining verification on Threads is to subscribe to Meta Verified.
Meta Verified costs $11.99/month when subscribed via the web or $14.99/month when subscribed via an app.
Subscribing to Meta Verified through Instagram online is not yet available, only via the app.
According to Meta, getting Meta Verified is an easy three-step process:
- Select a profile.
- Set up payment.
- Verify identity.
The Meta Verified Help page also has this disclaimer:
“While Meta Verified is currently only available to subscribe on Instagram and Facebook, when you subscribe on Instagram the verified badge will also appear on your Threads profile.
The Meta Verified bundle and full suite of benefits are not yet available on Threads.”
The Goal For Threads As A Community
Zuckerberg wrote that the company’s strategy for Threads is to focus on friendliness:
“The goal is to keep it friendly as it expands.
I think it’s possible and will ultimately be the key to its success.
That’s one reason why Twitter never succeeded as much as I think it should have, and we want to do it differently.”
A week after Threads went live, Mark Zuckerberg explained that the strategy moving forward was to improve the platform’s basics and to retain users.
After the company has succeeded in maturing the platform, it will focus on growing it as a community.
“I’m very optimistic about how the Threads community is coming together.
Early growth was off the charts, but more importantly 10s of millions of people now come back daily.
That’s way ahead of what we expected. The focus for the rest of the year is improving the basics and retention.
It’ll take time to stabilize, but once we nail that then we’ll focus on growing the community.
We’ve run this playbook many times (FB, IG, Stories, Reels, etc) and I’m confident Threads is on a good path too.”
Will Threads Take Over From X (Twitter)?
Answering that question might depend on the answer to whether X (Twitter) has a future.
Creating a community is a slow process.
For example, examining how long it took for various social networks to reach 100 million users reveals how difficult it is to build a lively community.
- It took 5 years for Twitter to reach 100 million users.
- Facebook required 4.5 years to reach that milestone.
- LinkedIn needed over seven years to reach that level.
- YouTube reached 100 million users in 4 years and 1 month’s time.
The point is that growing a community takes time, years even.
Yet, the fact that Threads took a matter of weeks to reach 100 million users shows that there may be a future for Threads.
However, engagement has since reportedly declined significantly.
Part of it may depend on Meta’s strategy for cultivating celebrities and popular entertainment companies to join and create engagement.
Creators, particularly those who are already popular on Instagram, may also be key to seeding Threads with the rare qualities of community, engagement, and interestingness – the ability to capture and hold an audience’s interest.
Lastly, the next presidential election is just around the corner, which could also help elevate engagement and participation on Threads.
But the answer to whether Threads has a future may still come down to where X (Twitter) is heading and how fast it will take to get there.
Featured image by Shutterstock/slava17