July 17, 2023

Threads Won’t Take Twitter’s Crown

A new competitor for the social media giant launched to a lot of hoopla, but Elon Musk’s company is likely safe.

Meta has launched an offshoot of Instagram called Threads, and it’s meant to be a direct Twitter competitor. Ten million users immediately signed up to use the platform upon its release, and soon that number swelled to nearly 100 million. Influencers and news media alike have joined in on the marketing campaign to push Threads into the hands of Instagram’s existing audience of 2.35 billion people. While these early numbers are impressive, they do not tell the full and complete story of Threads’ success or lack thereof. Twitter should not feel any threat from Mark Zuckerberg’s latest creation.

Threads is in the perfect position to gain an immediate user base due to having a captive audience. The brand-new social media platform is really just an extension of Instagram. If someone wishes to delete their Threads account, they may only do so by also deleting their Instagram. Instagram also promotes Threads by allowing users to post a direct link to their Threads account in their Instagram bio. This link is separate from the external link that Instagram allows its users to post.

When comparing Twitter to Threads in Google Trends, an interesting phenomenon becomes apparent. Twitter had a consistently higher (and steady) rank in Google Trends except for a very brief period of time. This time frame appears to be about two to three days, at best. This is roughly when Threads was released. News of the Twitter competitor hit the Internet and curious people decided to check it out. After that very short time, however, Google Trends showed that interest in Threads plummeted nearly back to what it was before launch. Twitter remained largely unchanged. The data suggest that people checked out the app due to sheer curiosity and almost immediately checked back out.

Threads has a beautiful interface and it works flawlessly. This is due to backing from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Meta has endless resources and some of the most brilliant minds on the planet. There was no question that Threads would be a well-oiled machine straight out of the box.

However, there is nothing unique that draws people to the platform. Threads is essentially a barebones version of Twitter. If a Twitter user enjoys their current experience, then there is no need to invest any time on Threads. If an Instagram user does not like the Twitter experience, then they will not like Threads. If an Instagram user becomes introduced to the Twitter experience through Threads, then Threads acts as a gateway to Twitter. The logic is that there is no reason to opt for a knock-off when the real thing is better and just as accessible.

The only reason Threads has so many “users” is because Meta is a walled garden with a captive audience. It’s easy for a daily Instagram user to simply download Threads and have that attached to their existing Instagram profile. And the word “users” is being used here out of convenience. There are not many active users on Threads in comparison to the number of accounts that the platform officially has. Daily active users of Threads were down nearly 20% from Saturday, and the on-platform time spent per user was down 50%. These numbers represent an obviously steep decline in interest and therefore a steep decline in active users.

Barebones (but flawless) tech and zero incentive to adopt are just two issues that Threads faces. Some new adopters of the platform are already complaining about heavy censorship. This was already an issue on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram is so heavily censored that warnings pop up on screen before people post the most benign, but possibly offensive, things. There are also warnings presented to people when they attempt to follow “problematic” (read: “conservative”) accounts. Twitter, on the other hand, does not have the same issue of censorship as most Big Tech platforms ever since Elon Musk took over the company.

Leftist-oriented tech blogs and pundits alike are probably rooting for Threads to occupy the space that Twitter currently does because Threads is sanitized and leftist-friendly. They accuse Twitter of being the “Wild West” of social media.

In reality, Twitter does have censorship, just on things that should be censored — things like child trafficking and other illegal activities. Instagram, on the other hand, has a serious issue with illegal activity on its platform.

One could make the argument that political correctness and good feelings are more important to Meta than actual illegality.

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