The Threads Takeover: Is Twitter Facing Its Biggest Competitor Yet?
Since Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter Inc. last year, the microblogging platform has faced a series of technical glitches, content moderation problems, and controversies surrounding Musk's stance on "free speech absolutism." Seizing this opportunity, rival billionaire Mark Zuckerberg's Meta Platforms Inc. has launched a potential competitor called Threads, which has the scale, financial firepower, and existing user base to challenge Twitter's dominance. This article explores Threads, its features, and its impact on Twitter's user base and market position.
What is Threads And How Will It Work?
Threads is a text-based conversation app that serves as an alternative to Twitter. Similar to Twitter, users can write and share real-time text updates among their followers, enabling features such as liking, replying, sharing, and direct messaging. The name "Threads" is derived from a series of connected tweets from a single account. Early previews on the Apple App Store suggest that Threads will be integrated with Meta's photo and video sharing network, Instagram, making it easier for users to discover and follow accounts they already engage with on Instagram.
When and Where Can I Try Out Threads?
Threads was scheduled to be made available on July 6, but its launch in the European Union (EU) was delayed due to regulatory concerns over data sharing between Threads and Instagram. The EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA) governs the usage of personal data by large online platforms and restricts companies deemed "gatekeepers" from combining users' data across different platforms. Meta is awaiting further guidance on the DMA, which is expected to be provided by the European Commission in September.
Why Meta Launched a Twitter Alternative?
Meta had made its intentions clear: to attract Twitter users to Threads. Chris Cox, Meta's Chief Product Officer, had described Threads as a direct response to Twitter during an internal meeting. Meta aimed to provide a platform that was "sanely run," in contrast to the way Musk had been managing Twitter since his acquisition.
What Has Transpired at Twitter Under Musk's Ownership?
Since Musk's acquisition, Twitter has made several significant changes that have drawn criticism and raised concerns. These include replacing the blue check verification system with a paid subscription offering, firing over half of the company's workforce, and implementing a controversial limit on the number of posts users can view daily. Technical issues have also emerged, casting doubts on Twitter's ability to sustain its operations and effectively moderate content with reduced staff. Furthermore, Twitter's decision to limit access to its TweetDeck service for free users starting in August has fueled dissatisfaction among users and led to boycotts by prominent news organizations. Additionally, EU regulators have called for Twitter to allocate more resources to address sensitive content, including child abuse images and disinformation during elections.
How Many Users Have Abandoned Twitter?
Determining the exact number of users leaving Twitter is challenging since the platform no longer publicly discloses this information. However, several notable individuals with substantial followings, including Oprah Winfrey and Elton John, have ceased using Twitter since Musk's takeover. Actors Jim Carrey and Whoopi Goldberg have also deleted their accounts. Concurrently, alternative apps such as Mastodon and Bluesky Social, which position themselves as alternatives to Twitter, have experienced an influx of users. Mastodon, an open-source social network, reached over 13 million accounts by mid-2023, up from 9 million in February. Nevertheless, Meta's Instagram, with its 2 billion monthly active users as of December 2021, holds a significant advantage over these alternatives. Twitter had approximately 330 million monthly active users in Q1 2019, the last time the company disclosed these figures.
What Does Meta Mean By "Decentralized" With Regards to Threads?
Reports indicate that Threads will integrate with ActivityPub, a decentralized social media protocol developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. ActivityPub enables the sharing of information between different services, giving users the ability to explore various platforms and exert greater control over their data. Most major social media platforms are centralized and limit users' control over transferring their networks of friends to rival services. How Threads will fully integrate with ActivityPub remains to be seen, considering that Meta's affiliated platform, Instagram, currently does not operate on such a service.
Is Threads a Potential Twitter-Killer?
Determining Threads' potential to overshadow Twitter is speculative at this stage. Some analysts believe that Meta, with its deep pockets, could capture significant user engagement and advertising budgets from Twitter, particularly if the launch of Threads coincides with a commitment from Meta to minimize the distribution of misinformation. Others, however, remain skeptical and perceive Meta's branding as more informal compared to Twitter's.
Meta's launch of Threads as a potential alternative to Twitter has the potential to disrupt the social media landscape. With its text-based conversation format, integration with Instagram, and the promise of decentralization, Threads presents itself as an enticing option for users dissatisfied with Twitter's recent changes and controversies. While it remains to be seen whether Threads can fully challenge Twitter's dominance, Meta's financial resources and existing user base provide a solid foundation for its success. As competition intensifies, users can anticipate a more dynamic and diverse social media landscape that caters to their evolving needs and preferences.