The social media landscape is in a state of flux. Over the past nine months, Twitter users have been on a quest to find a replacement for the platform, which they perceive as deteriorating under Elon Musk's leadership. First, there was Mastodon, a decentralized alternative that failed to gain traction due to its off-putting vibe and complicated signup process. Then came a slew of less notable apps, including Cohost and Spoutible, but none managed to lure users away from Twitter.
The Rise of Threads
A few months ago, another wave of alternatives emerged. Substack launched its Notes feature, causing a stir in the Twitter community. However, its expectation that users subscribe to newsletters to follow others on Notes was met with ridicule. Around the same time, Bluesky, funded by Jack Dorsey, opened its doors to a diverse group of Twitter users, sparking a brief wave of excitement. However, its slow rollout caused that momentum to wane.
Now, Twitter faces its biggest challenge yet with the launch of Meta's new Threads app. Designed to replicate the Twitter experience under Mark Zuckerberg's control, Threads has quickly gained traction. Within hours of its launch, it had amassed over 30 million users.
The Threads Experience
However, it's essential to remember that Threads' rapid adoption is largely due to its integration with Instagram. When you sign up for Threads, it pulls in your Instagram details and username, encouraging you to follow everyone you're already connected with on Instagram. This strategy significantly accelerates adoption, but it also raises concerns about data privacy, particularly in the European Union.
Despite its rapid influx of users, Threads is far from perfect. The user experience is clunky, search functionality is poor, notifications are a mess, and there are no direct messages. Furthermore, finding your Twitter friends is challenging, and the only feed available is an algorithmically-generated mix of brands, influencers, and other content that many users would prefer to avoid.
The Meta Controversy
Despite these issues, many users have been quick to embrace Threads. This is surprising, given the widespread criticism of Facebook and Instagram and the general public's dislike of Mark Zuckerberg. However, Zuckerberg and Instagram head Adam Mosseri have promised improvements, including a feed of just the people you follow. But can these leaders be trusted to ensure Threads becomes a good experience for its users?
Threads currently doesn't have any ads, but they're on the way. Before its launch, people were already criticizing Meta for its data collection practices. If Threads succeeds, it will likely be inundated with the targeted ads users are accustomed to on Facebook and Instagram. This raises the question: is intensive data collection, pervasive tracking, and endless ads what people want from a new Twitter?
A History of Missteps
Some users argue that Threads offers an escape from Musk's promotion of right-wing politics on Twitter. However, this argument overlooks Meta's own history of promoting right-wing propaganda for the sake of ad revenue. Meta has also faced criticism for its content moderation practices, with Facebook implicated in several instances of political destabilization and violence.
Furthermore, Meta's platforms are more prudish than Twitter, prohibiting posts with nudity. This same standard will apply to Threads, providing another reason why it may struggle to replicate Twitter's appeal.
The Future of Social Media
Despite the hype surrounding Threads, I'm not convinced it will save us from what some perceive as Elon Musk's social media wasteland. Meta doesn't have a great track record of launching new products, and it's hard to believe that people are ready to spend more time in Mark Zuckerberg's realm just because they're fed up with Musk.
Does this mean Threads will die a quick death? Not necessarily. Both apps will likely coexist for a while, as people with large Instagram followings may see Threads as another way to engage their followers. However, if Threads doesn't improve quickly, it may lose the goodwill it currently enjoys.
Threads' emergence comes after a series of Twitter blunders, but that doesn't mean Twitter won't respond. CEO Linda Yaccarino has stated that "the Twitter community can never be duplicated," while Musk has expressed his preference for Twitter's open discourse over Instagram's curated content.
With recent talk of a showdown between Musk and Zuckerberg, it seems the battle for social media dominance may ultimately be decided in a courtroom rather than a head-to-head competition between the billionaires.
- Are you satisfied with your current social media platforms? Why or why not?
- Have you tried Threads? What was your experience like?
- How important is data privacy to you when choosing a social media platform?
- Do you think Threads can improve its user experience to compete with Twitter?
- How do you feel about the increasing prevalence of ads on social media platforms?
- How does a platform's political bias influence your decision to use it?
- How do you feel about Meta's content moderation practices?
- Would you prefer a social media platform that allows nudity or one that prohibits it?
- Do you believe Threads and Twitter can coexist, or will one platform eventually dominate?
- How do you feel about the potential legal battle between Twitter and Meta?
- What changes would you like to see in the social media landscape?