Threads: What we’ve learned from the first week – and why it can’t kill Twitter just yet | Science & Tech News

With more than 100 million users signing up in five days and Elon Musk rattled into tweeting explicit jibes about Mark Zuckerberg, it’s been quite a first week for Meta’s new app Threads.

After months of speculation, the company behind Facebook picked the perfect moment to launch its shameless Twitter rival and it’s already the fastest-growing app ever.

For many, it was the opportunity they’d waited for ever since Musk bought the bird app to pack their bags, wave goodbye to their tweets, and hope plenty of their followers would join them on their journey to the sunny climes of another data-hungry social media platform owned by another controversial billionaire.

But while it may look an awful lot like Twitter, with its text-focused timeline encouraging replies and conversation, its first week has shown you don’t have to dig far below the surface to find the strategy isn’t quite so similar.

Threads looks remarkably similar to Twitter. Pic: Meta
Threads looks remarkably similar to Twitter. Pic: Meta

Who’s using Threads?

Threads feels a bit like a summer beach hut full of annoyingly cool people who wouldn’t look out of place in the new Barbie film.

It should probably come as little surprise, given the app’s built off of Instagram, where influencers, celebrities, and brands reign supreme. Among the most followed are Kim Kardashian, MrBeast, and Shakira.

Elon Musk would like Twitter to be the Oppenheimer in this cinematic analogy, a place for more serious conversation and thoughtful debate. Unfortunately, it’s long felt like it’s got to the part where the nuclear bomb’s gone off.

Much like Twitter, Meta has pitched Threads as a place to “join public conversations”.

Scroll through your timeline, though, and you’ll more likely find inspirational quotes, harmless memes, travel posts, and insufferable interactions between brands than anything particularly meaningful.

It feels, as social media expert Matt Navarra says, “a bit frivolous”.

“It’s quite a fun place to be, and the lack of established norms is part of the appeal,” he says. “But some people find the content cheap and lacking quality or purpose.

“It’s like Twitter with an Instagram wrapper on it.”

Read more:
Everything you need to know about Threads

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

There’s no news like less news

Helping make this divide all the more stark is the fact that Threads’ mantra seems to be “anything but news and politics”. Or if you’re going to talk about it, please don’t bother the rest of us.

Early analysis by Website Planet suggests news outlets have just 1% of the follower count they have on Twitter on Threads. Brands have seen much higher take-up, and are also getting more likes and replies than on Twitter.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Threads, posted: “There are more than enough amazing communities to make a vibrant platform without needing to get into politics or hard news.”

Read more:
Who is Instagram and Threads boss Adam Mosseri?

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri takes his seat before a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Subcommittee hearing on "Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., December 8, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
Adam Mosseri heads up Instagram and Threads

Mark Zuckerberg’s goading of Musk would certainly suggest he sees Threads as a Twitter killer, but it’s hard to see Musk’s platform being killed off while it retains its reputation as a place where news breaks.

This time last summer, Boris Johnson’s premiership began to collapse in real-time on Twitter – it’s hard to see a similar event unfolding on Threads in its current form, with politicians largely absent from the platform.

Navarra says: “If the goal’s to be a global town square, news and politics is a key component.

“It’s early and that could become the case with Threads, but it feels like it’s not the kind of content that’s going to work. The relevancy of Twitter is quite hard to recreate.

“I don’t think people can delete Twitter quite yet, which will be frustrating and distressing for some!”

Read more:
Why Threads is well-placed to catch on in a big way

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg attends the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, February 15, 2020. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
Mark Zuckerberg has certainly enjoyed Threads’s fast start

Where are all the ads?

One of the most striking things about Threads is there are still no ads – but enjoy it while it lasts.

With record sign-ups and high user engagement, the platform is ripe for advertisers – which have been a little more tentative about spending money on Twitter under Musk due to its lax stance on moderation – to help Meta start making big money from its new app.

Brands and companies, from Starbucks to Spotify, are already a big part of Threads, and will feel more confident their adverts won’t appear next to questionable content if it remains a more sanitised take on Twitter.

Twitter has reinstated a number of banned accounts since Musk bought the platform, including the likes of controversial influencer Andrew Tate, and this “free speech absolutist” stance has won the backing of groups like… well, the Taliban. It’s fair to say safety-first brands would rather not risk appearing alongside them.

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Andrew Tate videos ‘pushed on to teens’ social feeds’

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How will Threads evolve?

Threads boss Mosseri has made clear Threads needs work – there’s no ability to search for specific topics or terms, making it difficult to find conversations you want to partake in.

#Hashtags are missing too. There’s also no option to tailor your timeline to just people you follow, instead it largely shows you content it thinks you like (spoiler: I hope you like brands). For all the problems people have with Twitter, these fundamentals are at least still in place there.

Read more:
What is Threads missing at launch?
Why are so many apps adopting the same look?

Navarra says Threads’ sudden launch (seemingly moved forward to take advantage of the fallout from Musk’s decision to apply temporary reading limits for all Twitter accounts) and swift demand means it hasn’t had any chance to “establish a sense of community or identity”, housing both Instagram diehards and Twitter refugees.

Rebecca Tyrrell, a social lead at LADbible Group, says “there will be many Twitter users who don’t use Instagram and may not embrace Threads”, and many who’ve joined from Instagram having never used Twitter.

But you likely don’t curate your Instagram feed based on who’s got the best chat – and Threads shows why.

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For now, your main motivation to open Threads is likely curiosity – how are things panning out? Why are so many people signed up? It’s the shiny new toy of social media, and the fear of missing out is strong.

“There’s always the chance the novelty could wear off and when the dust settles it won’t be quite so exciting and people will revert to normal behaviour,” says Navarra.

In this case, normal behaviour likely means going back to Twitter. It may feel like a bomb’s gone off, but talk of its imminent demise seems – not for the first time – exaggerated.

Regardless, Threads is certainly enjoying its honeymoon phase. Whether that means users should expect a long marriage remains to be seen.

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