On Thursday, Meta (you know, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) launched a new social media platform. It’s called Threads and it can be described as “text-based” microblogging platform similar to that of Twitter and Mastodon with around 55 millions users.
With the downfall of Twitter, Meta seeks to add its own competitor to the ring in an attempt to beat its microblogging rivals. So far, the app has been downloaded more than 30 million times within the first 16 hours, and there are already talks of people taking legal action.
You might be wondering why exactly it has become so popular so quickly? Well, this is mainly due to something called the network effect. There was already an existing user base of people, as anyone can easily join Threads using their existing Instagram account.
So with all the attention on Threads in the past few days, I thought that I would take a look for myself. Me being interested in alternative social media (that is, decentralised social media such as Mastodon and the wider Fediverse) and social network analysis, I thought that I would give this a go and give it my honest option.
So let’s get into it.
Creating an Account
As I said before, Threads is based off Instagram, so in order to create a Threads account, you’ll need to have an existing Instagram account. You can’t have one without the other, unfortunately.
While I do have an Instagram account, I never use it and would prefer to keep it super secret for the sake of my own privacy. For the purposes of this review, I would prefer to keep it as anonymous as possible.
Also, Threads is currently not available in the EU due to “regulatory concerns”.
Upon signing in to Threads with my Instagram credentials, I was bombarded with a bunch of users I have never heard of.
This got be thinking, if I’m not following anyone, how exactly am I seeing all these accounts. It made me wonder what sort of recommendation engine they are using to suggest potential accounts for me to follow.
In order to get things going and to start populating my news feed, I used the search feature to list popular accounts to follow.
Threads works much in the same way as Twitter. I can follow other users and they can follow me. These are some of the most important features for building your own social graph and are crucial for social media platforms to work as they are designed to.
Likewise, the user interacts are pretty much identical to that of Twitter and Mastodon. I can like posts, reply, repost, quote repost and mention other users in my posts. This is great to see as they all help to maximise engagement with others.
However, one of the biggest issues was that hashtags don’t appear to be a feature. This makes it much harder to find and follow topics you’re interested in. Also, you can’t search using keywords, either. You can only search for user accounts.
This is how I found out that hashtags don’t work.
As for the wider network, there are plans to connect to the wider Fediverse in the near feature although, as of this writing, they haven’t given any indication as to when that may be.
My initial thought was that this will drive a lot of activity to the Fediverse, which will be great for those who would prefer to use platforms with user privacy in mind, such as Mastodon. Many are rightfully concerned (including myself) about how much data Meta collects from us.
My impressions so far is that Threads is a glorified chat room with nested discussion threads, as opposed to the standard microblogging set up that we know and love. Given that Threads has such a massive user base already, this could be a huge win for the Fediverse. In fact, this could very well be the tipping point where the Fediverse becomes the dominant social network on the Internet!
That being said, I’m still a little concerned about how the algorithm for generating the news feed works. Also, there is no timeline for getting Threads connected to the wider Fediverse. It could be sooner than we think, but I’m just impatient. The lack of hashtags put me off using it for now, unless that changes soon too.
Overall, I feel that Threads is a step in the right direction, but I think there are still some issues which need to be ironed out until it can really be taken seriously.
Will this be the final nail in the coffin for Twitter? My answer to that is, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t look good for Twitter, or Elon for that matter. I feel that this could be a big game-changer.