Meta’s new Twitter-busting Threads app is now active, and we’re getting more details by the minute as to how the app looks and functions, while the Instagram team has also shared some insights into what features will be coming soon to the new platform.
And it looks good. The layout of Threads is clean and simple, with all of the basic functionality of the Twitter feed.
Meta has logically sought to replicate the Twitter experience in the new app. And earlier today, some users were able to gain early access to the in-app experience - which enabled me to dig around some of the new app’s features.
Here’s what I found:
First off, in terms of functionality - Threads posts can be up to 500 characters long, and can include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length.
Similar to Twitter, Threads are presented in the main feed (with a lot of recommended content to start with), and you can like, re-post, and reply to each update.
And while Threads has been designed to work on a decentralized protocol, enabling greater portability and data control, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri says that it won’t be fully functional in this respect a launch.
But it does include this explainer, as to what the intention is in this respect:
So soon, all users will have a threads.net username, that’ll be discoverable across other apps that are using ActivityPub, which includes social platforms like Mastodon. Which will theoretically facilitate greater freedom to utilize your own in-app info, and take your audience across to other conversations, in other apps and digital spaces.
Though the greater fediverse – a collection of thousands of federated servers that are working together to facilitate a new form of open social media access – is not entirely happy with Meta looking to muscle onto its turf, with a collective of fediverse mods seeking to keep Meta’s products out of the space.
Which seems counter to the entire model – but basically, the new wave of open platforms aren’t particularly enamored with the big players, like Meta, seeking to profit off of their work, as Meta and Co. are the ones that created the problems that led to the fediverse in the first place.
Either way, this is reportedly coming, once Meta can work out all the complexities involved in facilitating such connection.
In terms of expanded functionality, Threads enables simple switching between light and dark mode, by tapping on the Threads icon at the top of the screen (thanks to Morgan Evetts for sharing this example).
Mosseri also says that voice notes are coming to the app, along with photo and video tagging, while they’re also considering post reactions, though that may clutter the UI, which is something that Meta wants to avoid.
In terms of how posts are ranked, Mosseri says that there is an algorithm that ‘lightly’ ranks posts for now, while they’re also looking to highlight recommendations from accounts you don’t follow in your Threads feed, as means to kickstart engagement.
So, more like the AI-driven discovery approach that’s now become popular in other apps, though I'd expect Meta to either dial this back at some point, or offer alternative 'Following' and 'Recommended' feeds, much like Twitter's current UI.
Worth noting too that hashtags are currently not active on Threads, though they may be sometime soon, while Meta’s also weighing how exactly it should refer to posts as in the app. For example, re-posts will likely be called ‘re-threads’, though nothing is set in stone yet.
In terms of controls, at launch, users will be able to limit replies on each post to either profiles that you follow or only those mentioned in the thread. Or public, open free-for-all. Instagram’s also porting over a lot of the accessibility and interaction controls from its main app, so there’ll be a range of tools to manage your Threads experience.
The app looks good, looks polished, it seems like a good space, though missing some functionality that Meta will no doubt add in over time (it's still very early, and Meta's only just getting started with the new app).
So will it be the Twitter killer?
Look, of all the Twitter challengers that have cropped up thus far, it definitely looks the best, while tapping into the social graph of Instagram will give it a big boost in introducing the app to a whole new range of potential users.
Worth noting that Twitter currently has around 250 million daily actives, while Instagram has over a billion. That’s a lot of non-Twitter users who could be lured across to this new app, which could give it significant growth momentum, and could see it become a viable alternative to Twitter, at the least.
And if Twitter users, particularly prominent ones, no longer want to support Musk’s changes or projects, that might be enough to drive significant take-up.
Either way, things are about to get very interesting in the real-time social race.