To put it charitably, Twitter is in something of a delicate position right now. Ever since Elon Musk acquired the app in October last year, he and his management team have instituted a series of rather controversial policy changes, including a paid subscription to acquire a blue tick verification, a new “gold tick” verification for brands, and a rate limitation scheme by which users can only see a certain number of tweets if they’re not verified in this way.
With all of that happening, then, the field is ripe for competition, and accordingly, we’ve seen a number of apps attempting to rise to the occasion. Mastodon shows promise, but it’s just a little too awkward for the everyday user to consider. Bluesky could be a contender, but it’s not widely available to the public yet, so we don’t know how well it’s going to perform. Enter Mark Zuckerberg, Meta, and Threads.
What is Threads?
Threads is a newly-introduced app created by the folks behind Instagram, and many are getting started on the app for the first time, and it’s considered an extension of that platform. In essence, Threads is Meta’s competitor to Twitter, and as such, it looks and acts a lot like Twitter, to the point that Elon Musk appears to be considering legal action against Meta due to the similarities between the two. Whether he’ll succeed in that endeavour – or, indeed, actually go through with it – remains to be seen.
Where can you access Threads?
Right now, Threads is available on iOS and Android devices, and it’s also only available outside the European Union (for reasons we’ll elaborate on in a little while). There is no desktop experience for Threads yet, and there may never be one; since it’s run by the people behind Instagram, the desktop portion of the app probably isn’t a high priority, just as it isn’t for its parent app. Expect Threads to remain exclusive to mobile devices for the foreseeable future.
What can you do on Threads?
Just like Twitter, Threads is a microblogging service, and so you can pretty much do everything you would expect to be able to do on an app such as this one. You can write and publish text posts, add images and links, and include videos that are up to five minutes long. Users can then reply to your Thread or drop a like on it, as well as sharing it externally or “retweeting” (obviously it’s not called that in Threads, though).
What makes Threads different from Twitter?
Obviously, the progeny of Threads and Twitter would be the key difference between the two; Meta owns Threads, while Elon Musk owns Twitter. However, there are also a number of differences between the two apps that don’t have anything to do with the companies that own them. Here are some of the key differences you’ll notice between Threads and Twitter.
- No ads. Right now, Threads doesn’t have ads, although given that Instagram does, we’re expecting them to be added into the core experience soon enough.
- No direct messaging. You can’t message other Threads users directly; you’ll need to use Instagram’s DM services if you want to do this.
- Must sign up with an Instagram account. At present, there’s no way to sign up to Threads without having an Instagram account, and if you want to delete your Threads account, this also involves deleting your Instagram account.
- Interoperability. Threads isn’t compatible with the open social networking protocol ActivityPub yet, but it will be, and when it is, it’ll “speak” to other apps like WordPress or Mastodon, thus creating a network of interoperable social media platforms.
- No “trending” page. Unlike Twitter, Threads doesn’t have a “trending” page, and it hasn’t implemented hashtags yet either, so you can only see content that’s on your feed (which is created by the people you follow).
Why are people worried about privacy with Threads?
Since Threads launched, there have been murmurs that its data collection policy is invasive and excessive. In short, Threads collects a metric ton of data about you, including financial information, browsing history, purchases you make, and your contacts. This isn’t unusual for social media platforms; many other apps, including Twitter and Facebook, collect lots of data about your browsing habits. However, some consider Threads’ data collection to be a step too far.
Whether or not this bothers you will, of course, depend entirely on how set you are against companies harvesting your data for use in advertising and other commercial endeavours. If you despise the idea of Mark Zuckerberg’s company essentially knowing as much about you as your data can tell, then you’ll probably want to stay away from Threads, but if this isn’t a hot-button issue for you, then it shouldn’t impact your moment-to-moment user experience of Meta’s new app too much.
Should you jump ship?
Here’s the million-dollar question: should you jump ship from Twitter to Threads? Well, we hate to be noncommittal, but the answer is “it depends”. If you’ve been falling out with Twitter for a while and you’re looking for an excuse to leave, then this could well be the moment.
However, if you want to know that the platform you’re on has longevity and won’t just be a flash in the pan, then Threads isn’t there yet; it can’t be, by virtue of not having been out for anywhere near long enough. Of course, the beauty of modern social media is that you can simply hop onto Threads with your Instagram account, check it out, and ignore it if it’s not for you (although you can’t delete your account yet!).