Threads — Meta’s “Twitter Killer” — Takes Aim At Elon Musk As The App Launches Today
— 6 July 2023

Threads — Meta’s “Twitter Killer” — Takes Aim At Elon Musk As The App Launches Today

— 6 July 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Today, Meta has officially launched its long-gestating Twitter rival, Threads. And given it’s been conceived as an extension of Instagram and operates very much like the Elon Musk-owned social media network, Threads’ arrival has already begged the question of whether or not Twitter is officially dead in the water.

The merciless war against social media giants is a slow burn, but when one makes major movies against the other it’s generally considered a seismic cultural event. This one happens to be timed perfectly.

Ever since the business magnate shelled out US$44 billion to take control of Twitter – long seen as the instigator and ongoing hot seat of the culture wars – Musk has made some increasingly erratic decisions for his powerful new toy.

Just recently, Musk officially imposed Twitter viewing limits, seemingly in a bid to lift paid Twitter verification subscriptions, and on the advertiser side, started charging brands $1500 per month to be a verified organisation so they can spend additional money on their campaigns. Stacking this on top of a number of chaotic choices has caused many to view Threads as Meta snatching an easy victory over the competition, arriving at the opportune time as worldwide Twitter usage continues to rapidly decline.

RELATED: Mark Zuckerberg Would Absolutely Crush Elon Musk In A Cage Fight

What Is Threads & How Does It Work?

(Photo by CTV News)

As mentioned above, Threads is practically an extension of the Instagram app. Today, July 6th, the app is now available to download in 100 countries, including the US and Australia. Meta has already explained that Threads shouldn’t be seen as a Twitter clone, although there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. At least for now.

Already some of the world’s biggest brands have made a Threads account, and it’s a fairly easy process. You download “Instagram Threads” for iOS or Android and, assuming you already have an Instagram account, you’re given the option to port all the data, including followers, verification status, bio and profile picture, to your new Threads account in just a few easy steps.

Like Twitter, Threads is a text-based social media app. In many ways, it works exactly like its rival. The primary purpose centres around text conversations and your posts, that is “Threads,” are limited to a generous 500 characters each.

Just like Twitter, you can mention other users in your Threads with the @ symbol and you can either reply, like or repost other people’s Threads to your main feed. As far as I can see from downloading it, the only meaningful difference from Twitter is that there is no direct messaging function. At least yet.

One of the biggest differences seems to be control. In response to ongoing concerns over online safety, harassment, stalking and abuse, users seem to have more control over the audience who can see what they post. There’s also a function where you can opt out of seeing posts with certain words that you can choose. For example, I don’t have to see any Threads mentioning “Taylor Swift” on my feed. Which is very nice.

The cross-functionality with Instagram makes it much easier for Threads to grab new users. You don’t have to go through the long process of re-following everyone, you simply click “follow all” when you sign up, and everyone who you’re already following on Instagram you are now following on Threads (assuming they have an account).

So far, it seems like while you have control over who you see in your feed and who sees you, you can’t yet customise your feed. It’s algorithm-based, of course, and given this is a new social media network, it’s safe to say the algorithm will be changed quite regularly moving forward.

As of right now, no one really knows how Threads’ algorithm works but it seems like posts are shown based on machine learning, and what the App thinks you will find most interesting. I’ve joined and it’s already showing me people I don’t follow.

While nuanced privacy settings seem to be the only thing Threads has got over Twitter right now, it seems most of the victory will probably be by default. As mentioned above and in just about every news cycle over the past year, former Twitter users are very keen to find an alternative so they can abandon Mr Musk, whether it’s due to politics or frustration with the platform’s fractured usability.

Given it’s pretty much a sister app for Instagram, Threads will also allow users to post photos and videos in threads. Although it seems like videos come across as links to Instagram Reels.

Privacy Concerns Over Meta’s Threads

Threads is a new app by Meta designed as a Twitter rival

Just a few hours before launch, the most interesting thing about the arrival of Meta’s Threads app was that it wasn’t launching in the EU. That’s a curious choice for sure, especially since everyone is in Europe right now and would very much like you to know about it.

However, after a few hours into operation, most of the talk around Threads appears to be due to privacy concerns. Significant ones.

As per Tech Crunch, the mandatory information supplied about Threads’ privacy — necessary for any iOS app — indicates that Threads may collect “highly sensitive data” about its users in order to profile digital activity. In other words, it’s looking just like every other major social media app when it comes to how it uses your data.

This includes sensitive information like health and financial data, location, browsing history, contacts and search history. It’s no surprise, given it’s widely known that Meta generates much of its revenue from tracking and profiling user data as a behavioural advertising micro-targeting tool.

Information provided about the app’s privacy via mandatory disclosures required on iOS shows the app may collect highly sensitive information about users in order to profile their digital activity — including health and financial data, precise location, browsing history, contacts, search history and other sensitive information.

That is most likely why Threads hasn’t launched in the EU yet, given it was revealed earlier this year that the Meta was being swamped with privacy fines and corrective orders in Europe.

My Initial Thoughts On Threads By Meta

There’s still every chance that this could turn out to be another IGTV and stick around for a while only to be eaten up by Meta’s core family of apps. It’s very much a “wait and see” game when speculating whether or not Threads offer anything substantial enough to become the next big social media app. Right now, I’m not seeing anything that’d really appeal to me personally.

Half the people on my feed are users who I do not follow nor have even a fleeting interest in. It seems the algorithm is quite lawless for now, which could definitely work in your favour if you fancy yourself a content creator and don’t have to acumen or patience to build a following from scratch. Consider it similar to TikTok then, where the algorithm seems to be more democratic rather than biased towards beautiful people, celebrities and meme-sharing accounts.

Subscribe to B.H. Magazine

Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.