Mastodon, Spill, BlueSky — the list of Twitter alternatives continues to grow as Elon Musk’s chaotic reign drives users to explore their options. Now comes the big one, from the company with the resources and scale to make a real go of it.
On Wednesday, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, launched its Twitter rival app: Threads. Scrolling through the blocks of black on white text, it looks a lot like its predecessor. And setup is a snap for anyone who already has an Instagram account: Users can create and autopopulate a profile with the same log-in and bring their followers over.
Just like Twitter, the platform is aimed at creating public conversations, according to the company.
“We’re hoping to bring some of what we have built for photos and videos on Instagram to Threads with text,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, in a video. He said content creators already on Instagram would be able to have more “friendly” and “open” conversations with their followers than they would on other platforms — ie. on Twitter, where pile-ons and other toxic behavior is a frequent complaint.
In a Thread post, Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said that Threads gained 10 million users in seven hours and by Thursday morning had 30 million.
The user experience on Twitter has changed dramatically in the months since Musk took over in a $44-billion acquisition and laid off more than half of its employees. Among the major changes has been the introduction of a paid subscription model, Twitter Blue, whose users pay $8 for perks including more visibility in other users’ feeds. Verified users who declined to pay lost their blue check marks, although the company subsequently restored them for celebrities and others with more than 1 million followers.
During the July 4 holiday weekend, users suddenly ran into a limit in the number of tweets they could view as the platform shifted off of Google’s cloud storage. Twitter explained the throttling as a necessary measure to “reduce downtime and error pages.”
For users hoping Threads would offer the same experience minus the headaches, the debut has been a mixed picture. Complaints about the new service are already cropping up on Threads itself and other social platforms.
First, as yet, there is no desktop version, a must those who want to scroll at work or get off their phones.
The composition of the feed is another sore point, especially for Twitter users repelled by its algorithmic “For You” tab full of clickbait and other viral flotsam. Threads offers no option to view posts only from accounts you follow or to view the feed chronologically.
Users have also also commented on the app’s failure to address concerns for users with disabilities.
“Threads was shipped without basic accessibility functions like an alt text field or an in-app captioning tool,” said Alexa Heinrich on Twitter.
The search bar does not help much with finding the public conversations Mosseri touts. As of now, users can only type and search account usernames, rather than the content of posts. Hashtags and authors who repost are not clickable.
Mosseri said Threads will soon bring features focused on recommendations and trends. It will also eventually integrate ActivityPub, a decentralized social network that will allow creators to take their followers off-platform.
“If you’re a creator, you should own your audience,” Mosseri said. “We’re working on that and a number of other features to improve threads as quickly as we can.”
Users who try Threads and find it wanting may find untangling themselves more complicated than getting started was. By Thursday morning, many on social media were warning that, while deactivation is easy enough, there’s no way to delete the new app completely without also deleting the associated Instagram profile.