What is Threads? Meet Meta's new social media platform hoping to rival Twitter

Instead of staging a physical cage fight, Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg is challenging Twitter's Elon Musk in a battle that could determine the future of social media. Threads will be launched tomorrow, Thursday 6 July, but should creatives embrace the Instagram-linked app?

Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Credit: Romain TALON - stock.adobe.com

Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Credit: Romain TALON - stock.adobe.com

It's all anyone is talking about: the potential death of Twitter and the race to find a suitable alternative. Yes, there's Bluesky with plenty of scope for development. Or indeed Mastodon. However, the jury is still out. Inevitably, both face the expensive and difficult quest to attract and hold audiences as big as the more established networks. Just look at Bluesky earlier this week when it had to halt new sign-ups as it struggled to cope with demand.

Threads, however, is backed by a company worth $732.99 billion (as of 5 July 2023) and is Instagram-related – a platform that remains hugely popular across the age groups, as well as Gen Z who prefer it to Facebook. As such, it already has considerable weight behind it. What's more, it looks like Instagram users will be able to use their handle to log in to Threads and follow their existing contacts, so it's an easy onboarding process.

Funny enough, Meta chose just the right time to announce Threads' launch, too, as tweet viewing restrictions announced last weekend was the final straw for many Twitter users. As Musk saw people leave in droves, Meta's new app appeared in the Apple Store on Tuesday with the introduction of a countdown website to mark the release.

What is Threads exactly?

It describes itself as "Instagram's text-based conversation app". It promises to be "where communities come together to discuss everything from the topics you care about today to what'll be trending tomorrow". Not much is known pre-launch, other than you'll be able to follow and connect with others who love the same things or "build a loyal following of your own to share your ideas, opinions and creativity with the world".

Looking at the preview screenshots of the app on the Apple Store, we can see similar features to Twitter, including liking, reposting and deciding who can reply to your 'threads'.

Interestingly, the name Threads wasn't always destined for this purpose. It was announced in late 2019 as a new "camera-first messaging app", presumably to compete with Snapchat. But that product was later abandoned and put back on the shelf until now.

Will Threads be the next big thing?

It's impossible to say at this point. But Meta is worth hundreds of billions, putting significant weight behind Threads, unlike other recent networks like Bluesky, which only has a quarter of a million users thanks to Musk's recent moves.

It means Threads is unlikely to disappear or struggle to gain traction. And with Instagram users able to easily apply their existing usernames to the new platform, it's a no-brainer for most. Plus, when you consider there are roughly two billion Instagram users in 2023, you can begin to understand the huge potential of Meta's latest venture.

It's not the Metaverse, granted. Nor is it Reels. It's something more accessible to most. And it's perfectly timed when millions are on the hunt for that golden Twitter replacement. Only time, as they say, will tell.

How do you sign up for Threads? And should you?

It's no secret that Meta has had its fair share of controversy in recent years. The topic of privacy keeps popping up (an understatement) and is one of the major reasons some users have moved away from Facebook and Instagram altogether. Even Jack Dorsey, Twitter's co-founder and now Bluesky backer, reminded us of this in a recent tweet that featured a screenshot of Threads' privacy info.

On that note, the Threads app collects data linked to your health and fitness, financial info, contacts, user content, purchases, location, search history, usage data, etc. What's more, yesterday's EU ruling on the use of personal data presents a major setback for Meta and highlights once again the conversation around privacy. It also means Threads won't be launched in the EU.

To be fair, other social networks like Twitter warn of data usage, too. On its own App Store listing, the platform says data like purchases, location, and contacts may be collected and linked to your identity. And Bluesky admits contact info, identifiers, and user content may be gathered, too.

So that begs the question, should you sign up for more of the same? Although Meta is transparent about its privacy policy and there are lots of ways to manage your profile across Facebook and Instagram, some argue that our data is a high price to pay for access to a free social network. Others, not so much. It's really down to you. No one is forcing any of us to use these services. But if privacy is a stickler, head to Bluesky or Mastodon instead.

Otherwise, you can download the Threads app from the Apple Store or via Google Play. And if you've already got an Instagram account, the platform will automatically grant you the same username. Threads launches tomorrow, Thursday 6 July 2023, so be ready if you're keen.


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