Instagram's rumored Twitter competitor is official, and it's here this week. Dubbed Threads by Instagram (or just Threads for short), the platform directly replicates Twitter's brief, text-based posting and sharing premise.
Officially launching July 6th, 2023, Threads is an entirely separate app from Instagram, but uses a creator's existing Instagram account. Let's take a quick look at what we might be able to expect from Threads, why it exists, and whether creators should jump on board right away.
How Threads Works
Based off some limited information from Instagram, we know that Threads will incorporate any existing Instagram user's username and password, followers, bio, handle, and verification status. Oh, and things like accounts you've blocked and your privacy status will also carry over. This already gives the app a significant leg up over other Twitter competitors and hints to why this is a "by Instagram" app instead of another standalone Meta application.
Users will be allowed to make posts with up to 500 characters (my, we've come a long way from 140 characters, haven't we?) and attach things like images, videos, and links. Based on some early leaked screenshots, Threads looks and operates a lot like Twitter but with the familiarity of Instagram's iconography and font.
In a slightly surprising sign of cross-collaboration, Instagram also says Threads will eventually be compatible with apps like Mastodon, presumably by integrating with the ActivityPub protocol (this article is vital to understanding Threads, but interesting if you're into that kind of thing).
According to the app store description, “Threads is where communities come together to discuss everything from the topics you care about today to what’ll be trending tomorrow. Whatever it is you’re interested in, you can follow and connect directly with your favorite creators and others who love the same things — or build a loyal following of your own to share your ideas, opinions and creativity with the world.”
Beyond that, we'll need to wait and see just how much Threads replicates the Twitter experience (particularly for trending content). Twitter's most powerful feature is arguably its ability to snowball trending topics into cultural moments. News — and unfortunately, disinformation — often spreads on Twitter at lightning speeds.
Does The World Need Another Twitter Competitor?
Well, that depends on your opinion of Twitter in the first place. For a lot of users, Twitter became less safe on an ideological level after Musk's somewhat hostile takeover. The platform suddenly tolerated vile and hateful content to a greater degree than it already did.
But even if you manage to keep yourself pretty insulated from that type of thing with just a small, close-knit following on your Twitter page, the app has fairly objectively become worse for users. In fact, leaked communication from a company-wide meeting reveals that one of Thread's core offerings is being "sanely run" — an obvious dig at Musk's erratic, often hypocritical and self-centered policy changes while at the Twitter helm.
Twitter now costs money for basic security privileges. It limits the number of Tweets you can see if you don't pay. There's almost no customer service anymore. Identity theft appears easier. For a little while you couldn't even link out to other platforms — and who's to say something like that won't happen again? Many users have also complained of less relevant content on their feeds.
At the end of the day, it's just kind of sad to see how quickly Twitter has fallen. A year ago its biggest problem was not being very profitable. Now it's not even that fun of a user experience.
So that's where all of these Twitter competitors like Mastodon, Post, and Spoutible come in. Not to mention Jack Dorsey's cryptic Bluesky platform, which is currently in a waitlisted beta and may be the buzziest of all. However, while all of them are doing something slightly unique or interesting, none of them have seen to really take hold just yet — or offer the universal appeal of a platform like Twitter. Which is where Threads just might win.
Why Threads By Instagram Might Be A Winner For Content Creators
The hardest part about adapting to a new social media platform is building — or trying to transfer — your ecosystem. Honestly, it's exhausting. And while there are things you can do to mitigate the burnout, the idea of starting fresh on a new platform can be overwhelming.
So far, that's the biggest thing Threads has going for it: the promise of an easy 1-to-1 transfer of your existing Instagram ecosystem. It's probably the primary reason they decided to make this "Threads by Instagram" and not an entirely different thing. Well, that and putting Facebook's name on a new platform may be a non-starter for people who have a very negative opinion of Facebook.
But it's also nice that Threads is its own app, too. We've seen just about every app introduce and depreciate new features at whirlwind pace. Not long ago TikTok stopped support for its "Now" feature, which was supposed to replicate BeReal's primary function. (Yeah, remember BeReal? Or Clubhouse?). It's hard to get users to buy into new features that come and go with such regularity. But an entirely separate app? That might indicate some buy-in that Threads will get some time to grow and not get canned in a few months.
Ultimately, the reason we see so many attempts to replicate and compete with Twitter is that Twitter's core functionality is valuable. More than any other social media platform, it provides a direct voice between creators, brands, influencers, and regular users. The platform may be suffering, but the need it addresses has only grown stronger.
While we normally take a "wait and see" approach to new apps, Threads feels like one that all content creators who currently use Instagram should jump in and start using as early as possible.