Competitors have been nipping at Twitter’s heels for months, trying to exploit growing dissatisfaction among its users over decisions made by its new helmsman Elon Musk. Those efforts, though, haven’t been able to gain much traction — until now.
In just five days, the latest Twitter alternative, Meta’s Threads, has garnered 100 million users, shattering a record formerly held by the wildly popular generative AI app ChatGPT.
“This is a big win for embattled Meta as it looks to regain its foothold amid the company’s shaky metaverse ambitions,” declared Mike Proulx, a vice president and research director at Forrester Research, a national market research company headquartered in Cambridge, Mass.
“The meteoric rise of Threads, in just five days, demonstrates just how many people have longed for an alternative to what Twitter has devolved into,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“While Meta has cause to celebrate, it’s far too early to declare victory,” he cautioned. “Thread’s success rests upon sustained growth and repeat usage. This means Meta must enhance Thread’s features and overcome data privacy concerns.”
“But make no mistake, Threads’ launch is a case study on what to do right,” he added.
Breaking New User Barrier
Unlike Twitter alternatives like BlueSky and Mastodon, which have had to build their audience one user at a time, Threads has benefited from its intimate relationship with Meta’s social powerhouse Instagram. That relationship has allowed Threads to overcome a significant barrier to gaining traction in the Twitter alternative derby.
“Threads has been able to jump this barrier because Meta directly connected the new application to Instagram,” said Luke Lintz, CEO of Highkey Enterprises, a digital marketing and social media company in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“When users sign onto the platform, they create an account by directly connecting their Instagram page,” he told TechNewsWorld. “This has jumped the barrier because Instagram has over two billion active monthly users.”
“By incorporating seamless integration with Instagram, Meta was able to leverage Instagram’s popularity to help Threads jump the initial barrier of attracting new users,” added Joseph Panzarella, a professor of digital marketing and media at the Katz School of Science and Health at Yeshiva University, in New York City.
“Seamless integration has been the key to attracting the first few million users, and it built the momentum for later exponential growth to 100 million users,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Threads accounts are so intimately connected to Instagram accounts that deleting a Threads account automatically deletes a user’s Instagram account.
Work in Progress
Despite its attraction to millions of users, Threads appears to be a product rushed out the door in the eyes of some commentators.
“Threads does have a bona fide ‘work in progress’ feeling, which could inhibit its broader adoption, particularly with highly popular influencers,” observed Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst with SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif.
“The inability to edit posts and access Threads on a Mac or Windows desktop are big challenges that legacy Twitter users won’t find appealing,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Marketing of the application also seemed hurried, contended Lintz. “No one really heard of the app up until a week from launch,” he said.
“The app was likely rushed to launch given the news that Twitter will be placing a cap on the amount of Tweets that can be loaded per day and the big push that Elon has been making on Twitter Blue subscriptions,” he added.
According to a Twitter post on Sunday by Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, a content delivery network, Twitter traffic has been tanking since the beginning of the year, or just about the time Musk took over the company’s operation.
— Matthew Prince ?? (@eastdakota) July 9, 2023
“From Meta’s perspective, it made sense to bring Threads to market as soon as possible and take advantage of Twitter’s ongoing business problems,” Panzarella noted.
“Threads was launched with enough early features to get user feedback and establish viability,” he continued, “and it was able to save costs associated with features such as editing and advertising.”
“Sure, there are a lot of features that are not in Twitter, but they’ve covered the core experience, and it has been a stable launch,” added Ross Rubin, the principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.
The rapid growth of Threads has raised concerns in some quarters about Meta becoming a social media monopoly.
“Meta poses a real threat at monopolizing social media,” Lintz said. “They have Instagram for the younger demographic of short-form content, Facebook for the older demographic of short-form content, and WhatsApp for messaging and as an international social media platform. Now they have Threads [for] short-form blogging. It’s worrisome.”
“There’s already been a lot of regulatory discussion about breaking up Facebook and Instagram and talk about one company having too much ownership over the social media dialogue,” Rubin told TechNewsWorld. “Threads could strengthen the case for that if it crosses the billion-user mark.”
Monopoly concerns aside, Meta’s move on Twitter’s turf is sending an ominous message to would-be social media moguls. “The only social media platforms that are going to succeed in the future are the ones that are backed by the user base and the funding of current large social media companies,” Lintz predicted.
“The odds of a new social media platform entering the marketplace with no pre-existing user base is slim to none,” he added,
News and Info Conduit
In all the discussions about Twitter, its real value is being ignored, maintains Karen Kovacs North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California.
“The biggest misconception about Twitter — and Threads being the Twitter killer — is that people like to talk about Twitter as a social network. The real value of Twitter is not as a social network. The real value of Twitter is news and information,” she told TechNewsWorld.
“Twitter is not a social network,” she continued. “It’s a network of journalists and other communicators. The value of Twitter is anybody can put a message up on Twitter, and it can be seen by anybody.”
“When people talk about finding a replacement for Twitter, they don’t seem to be thinking of Twitter as a source of information,” she said. “That’s a huge mistake.”
“Threads hasn’t been developed as an information platform where people anywhere — from the smallest voice to world leaders — can share information with reporters and communicators worldwide,” she added. “If Threads kills Twitter, it leaves communicators with a real void in their ability to find information and tell stories.”