Instagram has recently launched a new app called Threads, which has been highly anticipated and is being referred to as a “Twitter-killer” app. The app looks very similar to Twitter, which is intentional.
The Need for a Twitter Replacement
Many social media users are eager for a solid replacement for Twitter, as the platform has been experiencing difficulties under Elon Musk’s leadership. Recently, the company made the unpopular decision to limit the number of tweets people can read. While there are other alternatives available, such as Mastodon and Bluesky, none have been able to surpass Twitter’s popularity with influential figures.
Instagram Strikes While the Iron is Hot
Meta-owned Instagram saw an opportunity and decided to launch Threads earlier than expected. The app is now available in 100 countries, although it is not yet available in the European Union. According to a company blog post, Meta’s vision for Threads is to expand on what Instagram does best and create a positive and creative space for users to express their ideas through text.
How Threads Works
Threads functions similarly to Twitter, with a few minor differences. Users can write short posts of up to 500 characters that include links, photos, and short videos up to five minutes in length. The Threads feed is algorithmic, meaning it will be populated by a mix of people you follow and recommended content. This is similar to how Instagram currently operates. Twitter allows users to toggle between an algorithmic and chronological-based feed of only people they follow. Overall, based on early screenshots of the app shared with Vox, the apps look and feel quite similar.
The main feature that sets Threads apart from Twitter is its decentralized ambitions. In the future, users should be able to plug their Threads posts into other social media platforms like Mastodon. This is a very different approach than Twitter, which has been limiting free API access to third-party developers. However, this interoperability is not yet ready according to Meta. Additionally, it may not be what many day-to-day users care most about; they are more concerned with who is posting on the platform and how easy it is to use.
Instagram’s new app, Threads, has been highly anticipated and is being referred to as a “Twitter-killer” app. But how does it actually work, and what is it like to use? And does it stand a real chance of overtaking Twitter?
How to Use Threads and What It’s Like
To use Threads, you’ll need to download it as a standalone app from the Apple or Android store. Once you have the app, you can log in with your Instagram account and choose to follow the same people you already follow on that platform. This is one of Threads’ biggest advantages over other Twitter replacement apps: over 2 billion people already have a built-in social network on Instagram, so you don’t have to start from scratch with your follower base.
The Instagram and Threads worlds are interconnected. If you’re verified on Instagram, that verification will carry over to Threads. You can also cross-post your threads on Instagram as a story or as a link to another platform.
Once you’re logged in, Threads functions a lot like Twitter, but with an Instagram design flair. You can like, reply to, or repost a thread. The feed will be a combination of people you follow and recommended content from people you don’t follow, according to Meta.
Getting the Threads feed algorithm right will be crucial for Instagram. Many users have complained about Twitter’s “For You” feed showing them too much content from random users they don’t want to see. We’ll see how users respond to the content that Threads thinks they want to see.
What Threads’ Decentralized Approach Means
Threads is the first app from Meta to push towards “decentralization,” which means that users should be able to port their social media content and interact with users across different apps built on the same underlying standards.
Mastodon is the most popular social network to run on a decentralized model. Advocates say this can produce a better internet that is no longer dominated by a single social media company. Threads plans to take a similar approach.
However, this feature is not yet available. Sometime “soon,” according to a company blog post, Threads will be compatible with the ActivityPub protocol. This is a system developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to govern how independent social networks can operate.
The idea is that in the future, you’ll be able to have your Threads posts visible on other apps like Mastodon or WordPress, and vice versa. Users will be able to comment on posts across different apps. And if you decide to stop using Threads altogether, you’ll be able to port all your content over into a new app.
Meta believes that this decentralized approach will play an important role in the future of online platforms. While decentralization is a popular concept in the tech world right now, most users are not familiar with it and may not care about it too much. What will really matter is how many people end up downloading and enjoying their experience on the app.
Regulatory Concerns and Other Hurdles
Meta faces significant regulatory and reputational hurdles when it comes to launching this app globally. For example, Meta isn’t launching Threads in the EU for now because of regulatory uncertainty related to the new Digital Markets Act, according to Bloomberg. The act limits what major companies designated as “gatekeepers” can do.