Meta is entering the competition with Twitter by introducing a new app. Instagram has announced the highly anticipated launch of Threads, a text-based social networking app. Users have the option to log in using their current Instagram credentials and share concise updates comprising text limited to 500 characters, as well as links, photographs, and videos with a maximum duration of 5 minutes. The app is available on iOS and Android in 100 countries, except the EU due to concerns about complying with local data privacy regulations. Users have the option to customize their Threads profiles independently.
The existence of the app was first reported by MoneyControl in March and later confirmed by Platformer. Meta provided a preview of the app to its employees during a company-wide meeting in June. Leaked information has revealed that Threads targets high-profile celebrities, influencers, and artists, and will offer a range of features.
While Twitter competitor Bluesky, backed by Jack Dorsey, has been gaining popularity with its decentralized protocol called the AT Protocol, Instagram’s Threads will soon support ActivityPub. This is the same social networking protocol used by Mastodon, an open-source alternative to Twitter. By integrating ActivityPub, Threads will be able to expand its reach as Mastodon has around 1.7 million active users. Nonetheless, the specific timeframe for integrating this functionality into Threads remains uncertain at present. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, stated that they are committed to incorporating ActivityPub into the app. However, they encountered complications associated with a decentralized network, which prevented them from completing it before the launch. Mosseri emphasized the importance of being open and allowing users to migrate their audience to another server if they decide to leave Threads or face de-platforming.
By choosing to support ActivityPub, Threads will compete with other Mastodon clients such as Ivory and the Mozilla-funded Mammoth. Additionally, companies like Flipboard, Medium, and Automattic, are the owner of WordPress.com. Have invested in the Mastodon ecosystem as a response to the exodus from Twitter. However, Meta’s entry into the decentralized social web has raised concerns that it may adopt an “embrace, extend, and extinguish” strategy, similar to Google’s dominance in web-based email.
Can Meta’s Threads be a Big Hit?
Whether Threads will gain popularity remains to be seen, but it appears to be an opportune time for Meta to explore microblogging. It’s important to note that Meta has a history of discontinuing standalone apps. Having shut down numerous apps over the years. However, with Threads, users can easily access the app by authenticating with their existing Instagram login credentials. Their account details, including verification status and block lists, will carry over.
Instagram has been experimenting with various ways for users to connect beyond photo and video sharing, including the introduction of “broadcast channels” earlier this year. The integration of Threads with Instagram provides users with a head start in terms of sign-ups. Also ensures consistent enforcement of Community Guidelines. Additionally, users will have control over who can reply to their posts.
Developers and reverse engineers discovered Threads by analyzing Instagram’s code before its release. They found that the app supports posts of up to 500 characters. Less than Twitter’s limit of 10,000 characters for paid subscribers but more than the 280-character limit for non-paying users. Meta referred to the app as “an Instagram for your thoughts” during its development.
Earlier this year, Meta sought early adopters for a pre-release version of Threads, targeting high-profile influencers and celebrities. Instagram had previously experimented with text-based updates through features like Notes. Which allowed users to leave short text posts for their friends, and a separate app called Threads that resembled Snapchat. However, the company has since discontinued these features and apps.
Privacy, A setback for Threads?
Threads do collect a significant amount of user data, including health information, financial data, purchase details, contacts, usage data and browsing history, among other sensitive information. This data collection is similar to other major social platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Which have faced privacy concerns. However, users now have more options to choose platforms with better privacy practices. Despite these concerns, Threads has an advantage as it leverages users’ existing Instagram networks.
Due to ongoing privacy challenges and the changing regulatory landscape in the EU. Threads will not be launched in the region for the time being. Meta is cautious about data use under the Digital Markets Act, which passed in March. The company previously received a fine of approximately $1.3 billion for transferring European Union user data to the United States for processing.
For now, EU users have one less alternative to Twitter. As for those who have access to Threads, they can decide whether they want to allocate more attention to Meta’s family of apps.