While Meta’s Twitter-like Threads app still has a long way to go to catch up with other platforms in the space, it is seemingly still adding users at a fairly strong rate, based on the latest data from Appfigures, which tracks overall download activity trends.
And while “downloads” and “active users” are wholly different measurements, the fact that Threads is still driving interest is a positive, which will at least see more people trying out the new app.
As reported by TechCrunch:
“Threads saw 12 million new downloads in December 2023, earning it a No. 4 spot in the Top Charts by downloads on Apple’s App Store. It also saw 16 million downloads on Google Play, which gave it the No. 8 spot. On both stores combined, it was the No. 6 app by way of new installs.”
Those results are not overly surprising, given that Threads was launched to European users on December 14th. Based on Instagram adoption figures versus Threads, my assumption was that the Threads EU launch would likely drive around 25 million more downloads overall, which is somewhat in line with these stats.
As such, these figures are not necessarily indicative of regular organic growth, as there was a significant event within this period. But still, it does show that Threads is still growing, and that it still maintains its opportunity to challenge X.
Though there have been some negative indicators as well.
Threads downloads had slowed significantly before December, while some prominent former Twitter users are either sticking with X, or even reverting back to the app, where they’ve already established a large following.
I recently looked at the Threads activity of the top 50 most followed profiles on X, and matched that to their posts on Threads, and found that almost half of these top accounts don’t even have a Threads presence, which is not a great signal for the app.
The majority of sports and news accounts are still prioritizing X, while big name Indian celebrities also haven’t made the switch. These are significant elements of the Twitter/X experience, and if Threads can’t win them over, it could make it difficult to maintain its growth momentum.
Still, it is early days for the app, and I do expect that Threads will cross 200 million monthly users shortly, versus X’s claimed 500 million monthly actives. That’s a lot of opportunity, and it feels like it could only take a few more Elon controversies to drive a more significant shift away from his app.
And at the same time, X is still struggling to win back ad partners, which will also play a key role in its future evolution.
The challenges for X in this regard are varied, ranging from Musk’s ongoing criticisms of former advertisers that have cut their X ad spend, to his many controversial takes on political hot button issues, to Community Notes being displayed on ads in the app, explaining why they’re misleading.
As a result, advertisers are seemingly still staying away from the app.
AdWeek has reported that big brands are spending around 55% less on Super Bowl ads on X this year, with their budgets instead going to TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram. That could suggest that X’s ad revenue, its key income source, is still down by around half on what it was before Elon took over at the app, and at some stage, based on X’s costs, and required investment in new projects, it could become an existential concern for the app.
Maybe that will be the thing that pushes more users towards Threads, and really, that’s likely what Meta built the app for, to provide an alternative in case of a full X collapse, in order to scoop up those cast-offs with a similar experience.
To be clear, the total destruction of X still seems unlikely, especially in an election year. But the challenges for Elon’s “everything app” are continuing to mount, while at the same time, more people are, at the least, giving Threads a shot.