Threads, the text-based rival to Twitter developed by Meta, has made its debut in the world, albeit not entirely. Unlike other Twitter challengers, Threads has experienced an unprecedented surge in popularity. Within the first day of its launch, the Instagram spin-off amassed over 30 million new sign-ups, as reported by Mark Zuckerberg.
This rapid momentum appears to have unsettled Elon Musk, whose personal attorney has supposedly threatened to sue Meta over unspecified “trade secrets.” While the ongoing Meta vs. Twitter rivalry unfolds, significant questions remain regarding the new platform and Meta’s approach to its operation.
Why the disproportionate focus on brands and influencers?
Meta tested Threads with a select group of creators and celebrities before its official release. These individuals provided early feedback to the company and helped ensure that new users encountered a populated feed upon joining. The strategy proved successful, as new Threads users found an active feed upon registration. However, this emphasis on high-profile accounts has led to the primary feed feeling somewhat lackluster. Locating posts from friends, especially recent ones, can be challenging due to the current algorithm’s apparent bias toward influencers, celebrities, and brands.
What about a non-algorithmic feed?
Twitter’s original reverse chronological feed holds a special place in the hearts of many longtime users. Instagram also reintroduced its chronological feed last year after a five-year absence. Hence, it’s somewhat disconcerting that Threads currently employs a single algorithmic feed that heavily relies on recommended posts from accounts users don’t already follow. Not only is there no chronological feed option, but there’s also no way to view a feed comprising posts solely from followed accounts. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, and Zuckerberg have acknowledged that a “following” feed and a chronological option are in development. These additions should address the issues raised by the current algorithmic feed, which Slate’s Alex Kirshner referred to as the “garbage hose” problem.
How will Threads integrate into the broader Fediverse?
Meta has promised to integrate ActivityPub, the open-source protocol that powers Mastodon and other decentralized platforms forming the “Fediverse.” Initially, Threads launched without ActivityPub due to its complexity. However, Meta remains committed to the idea of integrating it. The company envisions a future where users of compatible apps can follow and interact with Threads users without requiring a Threads account, fostering a new era of interconnected networks. Yet, the eventual integration of the Fediverse raises numerous questions. How will Threads handle interoperability with other federated platforms while currently being an offshoot of Instagram? As Threads currently necessitates an Instagram account, which is neither decentralized nor open-source, users face challenges if they decide to leave. The process of taking their audience with them is far from straightforward, even on Mastodon.
How will content moderation be managed?
Content moderation remains largely unaddressed by Meta. As Threads attracts a sudden influx of new users to a brand new platform, it’s unclear how Meta plans to scale its content moderation operation. Meta has stated that Threads adheres to Instagram’s existing community guidelines and aims to foster a more “positive” environment. However, the company’s internal enforcement methods are not explicitly outlined. While Meta encourages users to import their block, restrict, and word filtering settings from Instagram, Threads will likely require its own moderation resources at some point, given its growing user base.
Where are the missing features?
Users of Threads are eagerly awaiting the addition of basic features that would enhance its functionality and bring it on par with Twitter and other services. Presently, the absence of several essential capabilities has been noted:
- Direct Messages: Threads lacks private messaging functionality, unlike Twitter and Instagram. It remains uncertain whether this will change in the future.
- Web interface: The absence of a proper web interface frustrates many Twitter power users. While it is currently possible to manually view Threads posts by navigating to users’ public profiles, there is no way to access the feed or interact with posts. Meta has indicated that work on a web interface is underway.
- Search and hashtags: Threads lacks the ability to search for posts or use basic filtering tools such as hashtags.
- Accessibility: Threads has overlooked fundamental accessibility features, such as support for alt text for photos, considering its connection to Instagram.
What are Meta’s plans for advertising?
The launch of Threads has raised questions about Meta’s future advertising strategy. According to Zuckerberg, ads will not be introduced anytime soon. Meta’s approach follows the pattern of its other products: first ensuring the product’s functionality and achieving a significant user base, and only then considering monetization. However, the exact plan for implementing ads remains undisclosed.
While it is uncertain which features Meta will prioritize, it is reasonable to expect that some of these missing capabilities will be addressed soon. Meta has an advantage over many competitors in that it has a vast number of engineers who can focus on these issues. The addition of new features will be crucial for Threads to attain long-term success rather than remaining a mere novelty.
Updated on July 7th, 2023, at 9:05 AM PT: Adam Mosseri’s confirmation of the company’s development of a chronological feed for Threads has been added to this article.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Threads
Q: Why does Threads focus heavily on brands and influencers?
A: Meta initially tested Threads with a small group of creators and celebrities to gather feedback and populate the feed for new users. As a result, the main feed currently favors influencers, celebrities, and brands, making it challenging to find recent posts from friends. However, Meta has acknowledged the issue and is working on a “following” feed that will prioritize accounts users personally follow.
Q: Will Threads introduce a non-algorithmic feed?
A: Yes, Meta has confirmed that they are working on introducing a non-algorithmic feed for Threads. This feed will provide users with the option to view posts in chronological order, similar to the original reverse chronological feed of Twitter.
Q: How will Threads integrate with the broader Fediverse?
A: Meta plans to integrate ActivityPub, the open-source protocol powering decentralized platforms like Mastodon. While Threads currently requires an Instagram account and lacks ActivityPub compatibility, Meta aims to enable cross-platform interactions and connections. The company envisions a future where users on compatible apps can follow and interact with Threads users, fostering diverse and interconnected networks.
Q: How will content moderation be handled on Threads?
A: Currently, Threads follows Instagram’s community guidelines for content moderation. However, as the platform grows and attracts more users, Meta will likely need to develop its own moderation resources to effectively address the challenges of content moderation. The specific strategies and methods employed by Meta for content moderation on Threads have not been detailed.
Q: What missing features are expected to be added to Threads?
A: Users are eagerly anticipating several missing features on Threads, including direct messaging functionality, a web interface for easier access, search capabilities, support for hashtags, and improved accessibility features. Meta has acknowledged these requests and indicated that work is underway to introduce these features gradually.
Q: What is Meta’s plan for advertising on Threads?
A: According to Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s approach to advertising on Threads aligns with their other products. They prioritize establishing a well-functioning platform with a significant user base before considering monetization. As of now, there is no definitive timeline for introducing ads on Threads.