Threads launches: Meta’s Twitter rival has arrived – how it works, how to join, and which celebs are on board | Science & Tech News

Threads, the long-awaited Twitter rival from Meta, launches in the UK today.

Built by the firm’s Instagram team, it’s billed as a home for “sharing text updates and joining public conversations”.

Its release couldn’t be more aggressively timed, coming days after another controversial move by Twitter’s incendiary owner Elon Musk forced many people to look for an alternative platform.

With a shamelessly similar look and the billions of Mark Zuckerberg behind it, Threads seems well-placed to challenge “the bird app” in a way the likes of Bluesky and Mastodon haven’t quite managed.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Threads?

Threads is designed first and foremost as a place to share public real-time text updates, just like Twitter.

Indeed, you barely even have to squint, and Threads looks just like Twitter – though it does have a different font.

Posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos of up to five minutes.

They appear in a timeline format, and posts can be liked, reposted, replied to, and shared elsewhere.

Users will be able to follow celebrities, athletes, and friends, many of whom will have jumped over from Instagram.

It’s available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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People will be able to post text updates, with images, videos, and links. Pic: Meta
People will be able to post text updates, with images, videos, and links. Pic: Meta

What do you mean ‘jumped over from Instagram’?

Besides the money and influence of Meta itself, the biggest leg-up Threads has on its competitors is it leverages Instagram’s already huge user base.

There are more than two billion Instagram accounts, and the same credentials can be used to log in to Threads.

Usernames and verification will carry over, meaning Threads could quickly assemble a huge line-up of celebrities, athletes, politicians, sports clubs, news outlets and brands that already use Instagram.

It also means you’re likely to have more friends and other followers you recognise from Twitter on Threads.

It could very quickly feel a lot livelier than apps like Bluesky and Mastodon, which have grown since Musk’s Twitter takeover but still comfortably trail its estimated user base of 360-400 million.

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Instagram accounts can be carried over into Threads. Pic: Meta
Instagram accounts can be carried over into Threads. Pic: Meta

Has anyone famous signed up yet?

Early adopters include chef Gordon Ramsay, pop star Shakira, F1 driver Lando Norris, and NBA star Seth Curry.

Even if you don’t follow them, they may show up in your feed if their posts are deemed “recommended content”.

It’s certainly a smaller line-up to start with than Instagram and Twitter currently have, but could grow fast.

How is Threads handling privacy and safety?

Meta says Threads will have the same features as Instagram in this regard.

All profiles aged under 18 will be defaulted to private when they join, and anyone can control who can reply to or mention them. Words can also be filtered so you don’t see any posts that contain them.

Accounts can be blocked, restricted and reported to Meta’s moderation team, and anyone you’ve blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads.

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Meta says Threads will share the same sort of privacy features as Instagram. Pic: Meta
Meta says Threads will share the same sort of privacy features as Instagram. Pic: Meta

Is there anything truly unique about Threads?

Not really to be honest, but there is one interesting decision that could inform how it develops.

Meta says Threads will soon be compatible with ActivityPub – in essence, it’s an open social networking protocol allowing different platforms to talk to each other.

It’s the same approach taken by upstarts like Mastodon, but more unusual for a major company.

In practise, it would allow you to transfer content between services. So if you’ve spent the past nine months on Mastodon after leaving Twitter but now want to move to Threads, you could eventually transfer your content.

You could also interact with people on different apps no matter which one you’re actively using, with your posts accessible across digital lines. All the while, each platform could still have its own moderation policies.

For many, the biggest issue when it comes to leaving any social media platform is the prospect of abandoning potentially years of content and interactions. Ideally, this decentralised approach could be a solution.

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