Instagram’s much-hyped new Twitter-killer app, Threads, is here. And it looks a lot like Twitter. Which is exactly the point, obviously.
Many social media users were ready – desperate even – for a solid Twitter replacement, as the app has been going through a particularly rough phase in what many see as its gradual regression under Elon Musk’s leadership. Last weekend, the company started limiting the number of tweets people can read, a questionable business decision that was widely unpopular with users. While there are some alternatives out there, like Mastodon and Bluesky, none have grown to surpass Twitter’s popularity with a critical mass of politically and culturally influential figures.
So Meta-owned Instagram decided to strike while the iron is hot. The Threads app was launched today (July 6th) and has already seen over 10 million users sign up to the social media platform.
“Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas,” Instagram’s parent company, Meta, wrote in a company blog post on Wednesday.
Functionally, Threads is similar to Twitter, with some minor differences. You can write short posts of up to 500 characters that include links, photos, and short videos up to five minutes in length. Your Threads feed will be algorithmic, which means it will be populated by a mix of people you follow, and recommended content: much like Instagram now. Twitter gives you the option to toggle between an algorithmic and chronological-based feed of only people you follow.
Once you have the app, you can log in with your Instagram account, and choose to follow the same people you already follow on that platform. This is one of Threads’ biggest advantages over other Twitter replacement apps: over two billion people already have a built-in social network on Instagram, so unlike with, say, Mastodon, you don’t have to completely recreate your follower base from scratch.
The Instagram and Threads worlds are very much interconnected. If you’re verified on Instagram (which you can now pay for), that verification will roll over into Threads. And you can cross-post your threads on Instagram as a story, or as a link to another platform.
Once you’re in there, it functions a lot like Twitter, albeit with an Instagram design flair, including the same Instagram font and icons. You can like, reply, or repost a thread. The feed will be a combination of people you follow and recommended content from people you don’t follow, according to Meta. Getting the Threads feed algorithm right will be key for Instagram. Many users have complained about Twitter’s “For You” feed showing them too much content from random users (and white supremacists) they don’t want to see, and that they miss the old-school default-chronological feed on Twitter.
Threads is the first app from Meta to push toward “decentralisation” — the idea that users should be able to port their social media content, and interact with users, across different apps all built on the same underlying standards.
Mastodon is the most popular social network to run on a decentralised model, which advocates say can produce a better internet no longer dominated by a single social media company. Threads, similarly, plans to take a decentralised approach. However, this feature is not yet available, with Meta stating in a blog post that it’ll be arriving soon.
The idea is that one day in the future, you can have your Threads posts be visible on other apps like Mastodon or WordPress, or vice versa, and have users comment on posts across the apps. And if you decided to stop using Threads altogether, you would hypothetically be able to port all your content over into a new app.
Meta, however, is going up against some significant regulatory and reputational hurdles when it comes to globally launching this app. For example, Meta isn’t launching Threads in the EU for now because of regulatory uncertainty in the EU coming with the new Digital Markets Act, according to Bloomberg. The act limits what major companies designated as “gatekeepers” – like Meta – can do.
Moreover, if Threads is going to succeed it will, ultimately, have to convince potential users it is, in fact, relevant. The magic of Twitter was that it’s a place where A-list celebrities, politicians, snappy writers, meme pages and everyday online users could all interact. For Threads to get that same effect, it would need those culture starters who can produce compelling 500-character long posts, and the chances of them, and everyone else following them over are admittedly slim.
To give Threads its props, celebrities have made appearances on the app, from Kim Kardashian and Shakira to Oprah Winfrey and Gordon Ramsey. Threads perhaps stands the best chance of any Twitter competitor yet, and it will need more of those kinds of heavyweight figures whose words matter, and the users who follow them.